Louise Swartzwalder column: Bellville school projects means memories and mementos


BELLVILLE – The curious, sentimental and saddened people who gathered last week to watch the last days of the 100 year-old Bellville elementary school probably didn’t know the timing of the “deconstruction” came at an odd moment.

The school was set to be taken down just before Easter, one of the most sacred and observed holy days.

It came, oddly, at about the same time as the tragic fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

The wringing, sad juxtaposition of all of those events could not have been predicted by even the most sage of humans.

Loyal area residents had watched for several weeks as the old building was taken apart, piece by piece.

The crew of J.K. Irving did the “deconstruction” job. All along, they were mindful of the feelings of people who probably just couldn’t believe such a day would come.

Jesse Gaines, of the Irving firm, helpfully told people when significant events would occur. That helped everyone get to their preferred positions to observe.

People came onto their lawns with their chairs or drove to the street in front of the school.

The first moments of “deconstruction,” — NOT demolition — saw back areas of the school go. The gymnasium area was first, then classrooms.

By the time it was appropriate to take down the most visible portion of the building, only the rectangular front section of the building remained.

Last Wednesday was the day the majestic tower was removed.

This was done by Clayton Bogleman, the crane operator, who seemed to have a real affinity for maneuvering the giant equipment so that it looked like the jaws of the crane were gently caressing parts of the building.

Watching the event was heart wrenching, probably in the same way as watching the collapse of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Giant water hoses were manipulated so that everything was watered down. This means when bricks and building pieces began to fall, dust was minimal.

Carol Leedy watched with friends when the front of the building began to go last Wednesday.

The giant crane slowly worked its way to the most pivotal point of the front façade of the building.

It gingerly grasped pieces of brick surrounding the infrastructure of the tower. The crane pulled; bricks fell.

Finally, the crane had its opportunity to grip the roof of the tower.

It did so. With a pull, it was able to dislodge the roof portion, and it crashed down.

If all eyes of observers were dry at that moment, it would have been dumbfounding.

The area of the tower where students had written names was visible before the tower’s final moments.

Writing said “vine kids.”

Pat Snyder said she had been one of the students who was allowed to go into the tower and affix their names.

She said her crew was generally known as “ornery” but they didn’t get anything as common as detention as punishment. They got a “paddling,” she said.

She observed the “deconstruction” process last week.

School students are now back in the new Bellville Elementary School building.

One observer on final “deconstruction” day, said she didn’t feel the new building had nearly the character of the old structure.

Spring is known as a time of beginning.

With the old building gone, new things can occur.

Playground areas will be built.

And, those who want to keep a piece of history have been invited by the Bellville school district and the Irving people to forage through a stock of removed bricks and take them to a new loving place.

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