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'Slightly unbelievable': Historic Oregon schoolhouse saved from demolition arrives at new home

The nearly 100-year-old Carus Historic Schoolhouse in Oregon City narrowly escaped demolition. Now its two-month journey to a new home is complete.

OREGON CITY, Ore. — In Oregon City, the Carus Historic Schoolhouse has a new home. The landmark affectionately known as the "old white building" was built in 1926. It stayed in the same location on South Carus Road even after a new Carus Elementary School was built nearby to replace it.

It may have remained there forever, had the Canby School District not decided to expand its parking lot. The district had planned to demolish the two-room building July 1, but a group of community members stepped in with a plan to move it.

“I went, 'No, no, no, no, no, demolish!'” said Chris Ritter, who heads The Friends of the Historic Schoolhouse, comprised of five women. “We're doing this on a wish and a prayer.”

Ritter taught for 30 years at Carus. Her husband, Milt Ritter, also has considerable history with the school; his grandfather was part of the crew that built it.

After some complications, the couple was able to hire Wolfe House & Building Movers to move the school, last minute.

“A couple weeks ago we had (a different house mover) involved that sort of crapped out and we thought, ‘Ok we're done,’” said Milt. “Chris talked to (Wolfe) and they said, ‘Yeah, we just had a cancellation and we can start on it tomorrow!’”

"Tomorrow" happened on June 30, the day before the building was set to be demolished. Organizers pooled $150,000 in donations from community members, some of which were shared as loans. They’re still collecting funds to pay off the moving fee, and are raising additional funds to renovate the house. The plan is to turn it into a community center at its new home on Evans Farms, located less than a mile away.

“I said, ‘Bring it to our property!’” said Cindy Lou Evans Pease, who owns Evans Farms. “Five generations of our family have gone to Carus School, myself included.”

Evans Pease’s grandfather, Clarence Evans, helped build the school using boards that were milled from trees grown on his farm. In that sense, the schoolhouse is going home.

“I think the schoolhouse was meant to come back here,” said Evans Pease. “Every time they throw a wrench in the works we have a new challenge and our little group of five women just get up and figure it out, and whistle our group of volunteers and it happens.”

In August, volunteers deflected another wrench. Plans to move the school up Highway 213 were derailed by utility issues.

“We said ok, we'll take it around the pasture,” said Evans Pease, noting they asked neighbors for permission.

“(One neighbor) said, ‘I'd be honored to have the school pass through my property,’” she shared.

Inch by inch, movers hauled the house up a ridge, across Mueller Road and finally to its new home, where it landed August 16. Many former students set up lawn chairs to watch as the house reached its final destination, including Susie Kunze Kraft.

“It’s a happy feeling that they've saved all this,” said Kunze Kraft. “It just gives you goosebumps and the history behind it all.”

Those behind the gathering are grateful for continued community support, and look forward to being able to use the white house for community events. They estimate it will take around two years to complete repairs and improvements and hope to open in 2026 when the building turns 100.

“It's slightly unbelievable that it's actually happening,” said Milt Ritter. “It's a huge relief, I have to say.”

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