Saved by the Bell

Posted November 29, 2018


New Home For Helena’s Baxendale Schoolhouse

After three decades of helping owners across the state save endangered buildings, the Montana Preservation Alliance (MPA) will adopt and move the historic Baxendale Schoolhouse west of Helena in early December. Marci and Bob Andersen, owners of the Wassweiler Steakhouse located on US Highway 12 west of Helena, were looking for a sympathetic new owner for the 128-year-old white schoolhouse in their parking lot. After renovating the 1883 Wassweiler Inn and Bath House into a restaurant, parking was in short supply, and urgently needed so patrons would no longer need to park out on busy Highway 12, especially in winter.

MPA Executive Director, Chere Jiusto and the MPA Board of Directors jumped in to rescue the school and find a compatible new location. By early October, it was clear that the best path to saving the building was for MPA to accept and move it. With an estimate from Tamietti House Moving, MPA secured private donations and generous grants from the Harbaugh Foundation and the Montana History Foundation’s Emergency Grant program to cover the move. Just as important, MPA found a quiet new location for temporary placement of the schoolhouse through discussions with Helena’s Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts and the Prickly Pear Land Trust.

In early December, the school will make its way to a new location just four miles away where it will remain on beams until Spring, while MPA secures its permanent placement. The Baxendale School is no stranger to getting picked up and moved. The school was built around 1890 and located near the Holter sawmill at the Baxendale townsite. It was later moved closer to Highway 12 where it served as a school until 1943. From 1943 to the early 1990s it served as the Baxendale Community Center. In 1997, it moved again a short distance to the Wassweiler property and was part of an antiques shop. Over the winter, MPA will plan to restore the building to its original use – a classroom – and raise funds for a new foundation, roof, and utilities. The vision is to restore the Baxendale School for use as MPA’s Montana Preservation Training Center, and to share its use with other partners and the greater community.

More information on the exact moving date is forthcoming. For additional information or interviews, please contact Chere Jiusto at 406-457-2822 or [email protected].

Learn more about the MHF History Emergencies grant fund here: