HELENA — Although the Unionville School Building is no longer used to educate children, the building has served an important purpose over the past 70 years or so by bringing the community together and creating strong bonds between neighbors.

“This space is the heart of our community, I would say. It’s always been a community space,” says Anna Baker, community organizer and volunteer general contractor.

The Unionville Schoolhouse has been a staple in the community for decades. The building was originally used as a school when it arrived in Unionville after being moved from a mining operation in the 1870s. In the 1950s, area children were expected to attend school within Helena and the building became a community center. Here, locals will host events such as parties, potlucks, picnics, music gatherings, and get-togethers to help create community and celebrate together.

“So, it was important to me that my kids grow up knowing their neighbors the same way I was fortunate to do,” Baker says.

About two years ago, a few people went to put in a new bell and build a dome to hold the bell. They soon realized the extent of the damage to the old house.

Community members jumped into action to help restore the building to its former glory.

A grant was soon obtained from the Montana History Foundation to help replace the large window and wall on the side of the building. The county provided another $100,000 in ARPA funds to reestablish the foundation and other important components.

Just last weekend, the building was moved right next to its previous location in order to make progress on the new foundation.

Baker hopes that a year from now the building will be able to host community events again.

“I hope a year from now we will have a warming ceremony for the school building and be able to use the building again,” Baker says.

Having this building in the community is vital to the Unionville community and to maintaining the core of the city, Baker says.

“I would say this building is the heart of Unionville. We have a very tight-knit community here. We know our neighbors and work together on other projects. It’s common for us to help each other build sheds and frame houses. I think this building is the reason we have “We have a close-knit community, because we have this space to come together on common ground and know each other as neighbors.”

    (Tags for translation)Anna Baker

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