Belmont’s Gale School to be moved to new location, concluding decades-long preservation effort

  • A Gale School classroom is seen on March 16, 2018. The building will be relocated this summer and rehabbed into a functional community space. Monitor file

  • The abandoned Gale School in back of the Belmont Middle School off of School Street. The school was built in 1894. GEOFF FORESTER

  • The abandoned Gale School in back of the Belmont Middle School off of School Street. The school was built in 1894. GEOFF FORESTER

  • The old Gale School building, located behind Belmont Middle School in Belmont, is seen on Friday, Mar. 16, 2018. Earlier in the week, Shaker Regional School District voters decided to allow the district to sell the historic structure to the Save Our Gale School Committee. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • The old Gale School building, located behind Belmont Middle School in Belmont, is seen on Friday, Mar. 16, 2018. Earlier in the week, Shaker Regional School District voters decided to allow the district to sell the historic structure to the Save Our Gale School Committee. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • Woody Fogg stands in the attic of the old Gale School building, located behind Belmont Middle School on March 16, 2018. Monitor file

  • The Gale School, located behind Belmont Middle School in Belmont, is seen on March 16, 2018. This summer, the building will be relocated to a new lot. BELOW: The old sign rests sideways against a wall inside the former elementary school. Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 6/25/2020 12:34:44 PM

In a few weeks, 125 tons of history will make a short journey through the town of Belmont as the Gale School building is finally moved to its new home.

Final preparations are underway to move the historic building, constructed in 1894, to a lot on Concord Street that was donated to the Save Our Gale School preservation committee last fall. After the school is moved, Lakes Region Community Developers, an affordable housing organization in Laconia, will rehabilitate the building and repurpose it as a community facility open to all.

The school building, which has not been used by the school district since 1997, has long represented a challenge for the Belmont community. Efforts to save the building from destruction were successful, but moving it from its current location has always been cost-prohibitive – until now.

The emergence of the Concord Street lot and years of fundraising means the Gale School committee is nearing the conclusion of a decades-long preservation effort.

“A couple of us who were very stubborn and persistent said, ‘This is going to happen,’ ” said Woodbury Fogg, a Save Our Gale School committee member. “No matter how long it takes, it’s going to happen.”

The Shaker Regional School District originally accepted a proposal to move and save the building in 2017, the same year the building was also designated as one of the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance’s “Seven to Save.” This designation helped the Gale School secure a $110,000 LCHIP historic preservation grant, making the dream of saving the Gale School a serious reality. Another significant source of support came in the summer of 2017, when the committee successfully petitioned the school district to reallocate the $71,000 originally budgeted to demolish the school building toward the moving project instead.

Committee members are continuing to raise funds as they finalize the details of the Gale School’s move, which is slated for late summer. After the redevelopment project receives official approval from the Belmont Planning Board and a new concrete foundation is constructed, the school will travel down the hill to its new home. A temporary road has been constructed with the permission of property owners located in between the school’s current location and the lot on Concord Street. Several contractors and construction services have donated their services to the project, a step that Fogg says finally made the school’s move feasible.

The school district will continue ownership of the building until the day the school is moved, when the committee will purchase the building for $1 under a previously approved purchase and sale agreement. After the building is in place on Concord Street, Lakes Region Community Developers will take over and begin preservation and redevelopment work on the building.

Carmen Lorentz, executive director of Lakes Region Community Developers, envisions the building continuing to serve families under her organization’s ownership. She hopes to attract a tenant that will enhance the Belmont community – some of the most urgent needs include a child care and early education center and an elder care center.

“It’s a wonderful historic preservation project, and it can also serve as a community facility that will be providing vital services in our area,” Lorentz said.

Lorentz and her staff have already started working to secure funding and planning for the redevelopment of the school building after its move. In 2017, the organization expanded its mission beyond affordable housing to include developing facilities to benefit its residents as well as the broader community, making it an ideal partner to take over the Gale School.

Once the redevelopment is complete, the project will contribute to village revitalization in Belmont, as well as provide much-needed services to the community. As the Gale School begins its new chapter, Lorentz intends to honor the building’s rich history.

“It was a building where kids were cared for and educated, and it’ll be neat to see it serve that purpose again with a slightly different twist,” she said.


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