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For the week of Nov. 3, 1999 through Nov. 9, 1999

Church on wheels

Last-minute effort saves Louie’s building


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

Louie's was on the move here at the top of Saddle Rd en route to the Park and Ride lot on Warm Springs Road (Express photo by Willy Cook)

It was a surreal sight on a crisp Monday morning.

Cars slowed, stopped and were diverted from their usual Monday commutes when, shortly after 8:30 a.m., a 25-ton one-time church, one-time restaurant was towed behind a large diesel truck, which hogged Sun Valley Road en route to Ketchum’s park & ride lot.

The Congregational Church, one of Ketchum’s few lasting architectural relics from the 1880s, was moved days before its otherwise imminent destruction. The building and lot’s current owner, Louie Mallane, said he would have torn it down this week if it were not moved.

Mallane operated his Italian restaurant, Louie’s, out of the old church for the past two decades.

Richard Barney of Shoshone and his crew of movers slowly transported the building. They towed it east on Sun Valley Road on a make-shift, iron-girder trailer, turned left on Saddle Road and took the church to its temporary home at the park & ride lot as police officers from both Sun Valley and Ketchum worked to maintain motorists’ composure.

According to Ketchum police officer Eric Gonzalez, some drivers were impatient with the slowed traffic.

"People have been mean and nasty in terms of understanding the situation," he said.

Also, a crew from Idaho Power, the Wood River Valley’s electricity provider, lifted wires at intersections so the 32-foot-tall church could pass beneath.

The entire procedure—not including preparation for the move—took about four hours to gently plop the aging frame structure on the parking lot pavement at Saddle and Warm Spring roads.

Ron Solders, one of the three men who worked to move the building, said through his long beard that the church transplant went off "real good."

Only a flat tire at the intersection of Sun Valley and Saddle roads slowed the procedure when the tire hit a curb and whistled itself flat. The movers jacked up the church and replaced the tire with a spare in a matter of minutes.

Barney and Solders said they have relocated around 250 buildings over the past 12 years, work that requires a special permit from the Idaho Public Utilities Commission. The commission regulates safety and procedural steps associated with the monumental task of moving a full-sized building, Barney said, as well as the state’s power, gas and sewer operations.

Barney, Solders and Barney’s son, Eric, agreed that the building is in very good shape.

"It’s just like new," Barney said, also speaking through a lengthy beard.

At the park & ride lot, the building will be winterized, according to Dick Meyer, Ketchum/Sun Valley Ski and Heritage Museum (historical society) president. That will involve boarding up the windows and doors and setting the building on iron girders. The steep roof should shed snows easily, he added.

Next summer, past historical society president Floyd McCracken said, the building will hopefully be relocated to a permanent site and restored with its historic character. He said initial restoration estimates range between $50,000 to $60,000. Some, however, are as high as $100,000, he added.

The historical society will work to raise restoration funds through the winter by seeking donations, McCracken said.

McCracken and Meyer had planned to go before the Ketchum City Council on Monday night to present permanent location alternatives for the church, but McCracken said there is no rush now that the building has been saved and winter is setting in. He said he and Meyer will continue to look at options and visit with the city council later this fall.

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The two history buffs’ first choice location is on Ketchum-owned land at the east end of East Avenue. The proposed area is used by the city for parking and snow storage, however, and city officials are not sure that is the right place for it.

Two weeks ago, at a Ketchum City Council meeting, Ketchum resident Karen Mueller said the building could be moved to her property at the corner of Leadville Avenue and Rivers, but the city opted not to consider that option because of possible parking problems.

Regardless of where it will go permanently, those involved in saving the old church from the wrecking ball are glad they succeeded.

"It’s not an old building. It’s not a pile of junk. It’s history," McCracken said.

Solders and Barney agreed.

"We dropped another job to come here," Solders said. "We didn’t want to see it go to the dump. It’s a nice building. We think they should save a few more."

 

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Copyright 1999 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.