HELENA — The Unionville Schoolhouse, while no longer used to teach children, the building has served an important purpose over the past 70 or so years by bringing the community together and creating strong bonds between neighbors.
“This space is the heart of our community, I would say. It is and has always been a community space,” says community organizer and volunteer general contractor, Anna Baker.
The Unionville Schoolhouse has been a community staple for decades. The building was originally used as a schoolhouse when it arrived in Unionville after being moved from a mining operation in the 1870’s. In the 1950’s, kids from the area were then expected to attend school within Helena and the building became a community center. Here, locals would host such events as parties, potlucks, picnics, music gatherings, and get-togethers to help create community and celebrate together.
“So, it’s been important to me that my children grow up knowing their neighbors in the same way that I was lucky enough to,” says Baker.
About 2 years ago, a few folks went to put in a new bell and build a cupola to hold the bell. They soon realized the extent of the damage to the old house.
Community members leapt into action to help restore the building to its former glory.
Soon a grant from The Foundation for Montana History was garnered to help replace the large window and wall on the side of the building. Another $100,000 in ARPA funds has been given by the county to reestablish the foundation and other important components.
Just this past weekend, the building was moved directly next to its former location in order to make headway on a new foundation.
Baker hopes that in a year from now the building will be able to host community events yet again.
“I would hope by a year from now we’ll be having a schoolhouse warming party and able to use the building again,” says Baker.
Baker says that having this building in the community is vital to the community of Unionville and to maintaining the heart of the town.
“I would say this building is the heart of Unionville. We have a very tight-knit community here. We know our neighbors and we work together on other projects. It’s common that we help each other out building sheds and framing houses. I think that this building is the reason that we have a tight-knit community because we have this space to come together on common ground and know each other as neighbors,” says Baker.