SODA SPRINGS — After experiencing personal tragedy, Jerry Stoor started restoring old buildings to deal with his grief.
One project is particularly personal to him.
The Henry School was built in 1898 and served students between Soda Springs and Wayan. It finally closed its doors in 1936 and fell into ruin. By 2014 it was being used as a sheep camp and the owner of the land had plans to burn it down.
Stoor had an uncle who attended school in the old building and he didn’t want to see it destroyed.
“I felt like it would be a good opportunity to keep me busy and give me something to do. So they gave it to me,” Stoor said.
Before he could start work restoring the schoolhouse, Stoor had to move it to his property in Wayan, about seven miles up the road.
“A friend of mine and I built a trailer out of a mobile home frame and an old machine trailer. We welded it all together so it would fit the dimensions of this building,” he said.
After traveling the seven miles to Stoor’s property, the building had only slightly shifted out of alignment.
“I’m impressed by how they used to build things like this,” he said.
Despite having been well-built in 1898, the schoolhouse was in serious disrepair when Stoor began restoration.
“It was pretty much in shambles. The ceiling had fallen in, the glass was all gone,” he said. “You just start at one end and you start working through the whole thing.”
Stoor had to completely rebuild the front of the schoolhouse because it had collapsed. Throughout the restoration, he tried to stay as true to the original building methods as possible.
“During those years, the builder’s choice was tongue and groove. So the walls, ceiling and floor are all tongue and groove,” he said.
Tongue and groove joints were used to join two pieces of wood together to create a flat surface.
The schoolhouse didn’t have any electric lights when it was first built so Stoor decided to keep it that way. That meant he had to restore all 18 of the original windows to light the interior of the building.
“I don’t want to have to put windows in anymore. I was kind of tired of that when we got done,” he said.
Stoor spent the entire summer of 2014 restoring the structure of the old schoolhouse. Once that was finally done, he had to fill schoolhouse.
“These old desks are getting harder to find all the time,” he said.
Stoor explained he would go to estate sales and look on Craigslist to find different objects to put in the schoolhouse. He has filled the building with desks, school books, pictures, an old radio and telephone and hundreds of other historical items. But he said his two favorite things are a bench that sits in the back of the classroom and an old piano.
He said the bench was in an old middle school where his uncle was a member of the school board. When the school closed, his uncle took the bench home and used it as a front porch seat for years.
“Getting that and rebuilding it and knowing the total history of where that came from means a lot. The desks are fine, but I don’t know the history of where the came from,” Stoor said.
The piano also has its own special story.
Stoor said one winter he was in Twin Falls helping a friend remodel his house when he came across an advertisement for someone trying to sell a piano.
“When I went there to look at it, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. But it was a single mother with a young child and their furnace had quit in the middle of winter. They were all huddled together in one little room with a little electric heater trying to stay warm,” he said.
The woman was selling the piano to get money to fix the furnace. Stoor asked her much she wanted for the piano. She told him it was going to cost $100 to fix her furnace and asked if he’d be willing to pay that much for the piano.
“I said ‘Yeah, plus. Here, take it,’” Stoor said. “It just made me warm and fuzzy that I was able to do that. And the little kid and her was just dancing around the room, ‘We’re going to get warm. We’re going to get a furnace.’”
The schoolhouse wasn’t the first building Stoor restored. He started with buildings on his property.
“I had lost a couple of children and had gone through quite a bit of trauma that I wasn’t happy with and I needed something to do,” he said.
That “something” turned out to be restoring buildings.
“I needed this place to come back to my roots and stay here. In the process of doing that, I restored the old shed and rebuilt the barn and the house and I got really intrigued with,” he said.
He found that he enjoyed restoring buildings so he kept doing it and said he plans on doing it until the day he dies.
“It’s a hobby, yet, it’s a pacifier for me because I needed it,” he said.
Stoor said anyone willing to make the drive to his property on Henry Cutoff Road is welcome to visit the Henry schoolhouse. He asks that people make sure he’s home first.