SNOW HILL – Thanks to the efforts of the Worcester County Historical Society, a local landmark has a new home at the Furnace Town Living Heritage Village.
The Mt. Zion School House, long located in downtown Snow Hill, was moved last week to nearby Furnace Town. The one-room school house joins the historic site’s array of centuries-old structures that are used to offer visitors glimpses into the past.
“It broadens the offerings of Furnace Town,” said Bob Fisher, a member of the historical society.
Members of the historical society have spent the past two years raising the roughly $95,000 it took to move the 19th century school to Furnace Town. Though it had been in Snow Hill for decades, it was built in Whiton in 1970. It was moved to the county seat in the mid-20th century, where it has entertained visitors ever since.
“This we figured was important enough to move into our last available spot here,” said Kathy Fisher, former director of Furnace Town.
Her husband, Bob Fisher, said the school had only been attracting 300-400 visitors a year in its Snow Hill location on Ironshire Street. He says many more people will have the chance to experience it at Furnace Town, as the village sees close to 15,000 visitors a year.
“It’ll be exposed to a lot more,” he said.
Barry Laws, another member of the historical society, said the idea to move the school out of town came to him after a visit to Sanabelle Island, where there’s an old village a lot like Furnace Town. He thought a historic building would generate more interest if it was part of a larger historic attraction.
“It just made sense,” he said. “It’s something else to see and do.”
Laws spent much of the early morning hours of Nov. 12 supervising the move, which was handled by Expert House Movers of Sharptown, The process began at midnight, in an effort not to disturb traffic. Laws said crews removed the roof, jacked up the building and got it on a truck. The 15-mile route, chosen because it allowed the movers to avoid the bridge in Snow Hill, took the moving company five hours.
“A lot of the route was really tight,” said Expert House Movers’ Gabe Matyiko, adding that each time the truck came to a bridge the house had to be hydraulically lifted so it could pass over guard rails. “It went well though.”
The historical society has employed a variety of other local companies to help get the school house up and running in its new location. They spent Friday reattaching the roof and were expected to work on foundation this week. The goal is to have the building ready for the public to visit in April, when Furnace Town reopens.
Jeff Bacon, president of Furnace Town’s board of directors, said that while the school house was a bit more modern than the rest of the site, as the iron furnace was running between 1831 and 1850, it was close enough that it would fit in and provide visitors with another historic attraction.
“It’s something that will add to visitor appreciation,” he said.
Jack Graham, honorary mayor of Furnace Town, agreed.
“The architectural style is similar to what would have been here,” he said. “I think it’s great. It’s a good addition and a lot more people will get to see it at Furnace Town.”