Church on wheels
Last-minute effort saves Louies building
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
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 Ketchums park
& ride lot.
The Congregational Church, one of Ketchums few lasting
architectural relics from the 1880s, was moved days before its otherwise imminent
destruction. The building and lots current owner, Louie Mallane, said he would have
torn it down this week if it were not moved.
Mallane operated his Italian restaurant, Louies, 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
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 Valleys electricity
provider, lifted wires at intersections so the 32-foot-tall church could pass beneath.
The entire procedurenot including preparation for the
movetook 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 states
power, gas and sewer operations.
Barney, Solders and Barneys son, Eric, agreed that the building
is in very good shape.
"Its 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
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
Regardless of where it will go permanently, those involved in saving
the old church from the wrecking ball are glad they succeeded.
"Its not an old building. Its not a pile of junk.
Its history," McCracken said.
Solders and Barney agreed.
"We dropped another job to come here," Solders said. "We
didnt want to see it go to the dump. Its a nice building. We think they should
save a few more."