Moving Brooks School
By Sharon Barthmaier as told by Duce & Helen Brooks
Many Skyline residents may not realize that the former residence of Duce and Helen Brooks was the original one-room Brooks School. This wonderful yellow and brown-trimmed house is located on NW Skyline Boulevard just east and uphill of present-day Skyline Elementary School. The Indian motif that was out front represented Duce’s full-blooded Cherokee grandmother and the Swiss flag signified Helen’s heritage. The former Brooks School house originally stood down the hill to the west from its current location, just in front of the present-day Skyline School. Duce Brooks’s grandfather originally had given the land to the community for a school in the late 1800s and a one-room school house had been built. All eight grades were taught in the single classroom and, at one point in time, around 40 students filled the desks.
The current Skyline School was built before its predecessor was moved. The re-location of the Brooks School building was a feat of engineering along with good old know-how and common sense! Duce’s father, Mallory George Lewis Brooks (who for some unknown reason was called Jim), bought the old one-room school house for $200 around 1936 to replace his older home. The Brooks School, as it was then named, set level with the road. The first task was to raise the building to the level of the nearby field to the east, some 25 feet higher. To accomplish this, Duce’s father jacked the building up 25 feet by placing 12’x12’ railroad beams underneath. These massive wooden “beams” were obtained from the approximately mile-length railroad tunnel that starts below the S curves on Cornelius Pass Road running under Skyline ridge and ending at Rock Creek Road. The wooden supports in the tunnel needed to be replaced periodically, and such a repair was underway at the same time the school was being moved. Jim Brooks obtained 200 or more of the sturdy timbers.
To raise the building Duce recalls that his father, Jim Brooks, had obtained about a dozen screw jacks. There was a small crawlspace under the old building so that the men could get beneath it and strategically place the jacks. There were six men working, including Duce and some of the Luethes. Each man was in charge of two screw jacks. Jim would yell to them when it was time to turn the screws in unison, thereby keeping the building level at all times. A timber would be inserted when the building had been raised the needed twelve inches, and the process would begin again. The timbers were arranged in a crisscross pattern. Duce estimates that it took about a week to lift the building.
Once raised, the building needed to be moved about 700 feet across the field. Duce’s father had purchased 8 foot long round cores from Linnton Plywood to provide the rolling platform to move the school across the field to the small hill. Three-quarter inch cables were attached to the building and to a round drum at the designated home site. A team of horses was harnessed to the drum. As the horses plodded around the drum, the building rolled to its destination. As the house progressed across the field atop the round cores, the cores would be removed from behind and brought along to the front “This entire project”, says Duce, “took only a day!”
A concrete foundation for the “new house” had been poured with an excavated basement before the school was moved. The old school room rolled onto its new base without a hitch.
The original school room had a 16 foot ceiling which afforded the Brooks family enough height to add an upstairs consisting of four bedrooms. The back of the school house had a curved wall with panels of windows that allowed for sunlight to enter the room from morning to sunset. (This was before electricity you must remember.) The curved wall was retained although some of the windows were replaced with paneling to allow for the new bedrooms. In all, it took about two years to remodel the Brooks School. Duce, who attended Brooks School and then resided in his old classroom, could be said to have never gotten out of school!
An interesting sidelight to the moving story is that an empty bottle, standing upright on a shelf, had been noted in the closet room in the school. When the old Brooks School was finally at its new location, the bottle was still standing!
Duce and Helen Brooks lived on Skyline Boulevard for many decades. Sharon Barthmaier has spent hours with the Brooks listening to their stories of early times in the Skyline area.
Before Brooks School, there was a log house that served as the one-room school for the many children of the Brooks families on the ridge. It had stood approximately where Duce Brooks’s red barn now stands on Skyline Boulevard.