Clearing a Path for History

Lineman Neil George of Hamburg Service Center lifts a de-energized line to clear the way for the approaching schoolhouse.

July 21, 2020

For more than 173 years, the historic Epler Schoolhouse has been a fixture in Berks County, Pa.

And when encroaching development threatened the one-room stone schoolhouse, the community – and Met-Ed – recently pitched in to save it.

The 1847 schoolhouse was due to be torn down, making way for construction of a 100-acre industrial park. But developers agreed to delay demolishing the school while a local grassroots community movement devised a plan to save the historic building.

The plan: lift the 145-ton stone structure onto an enormous trailer and move it to a new home at the Berks County Heritage Center. In addition to the technical complexity of such a move, there was another potential snag… literally. Once placed on top of a massive trailer, the structure would stand 24-feet high, and there were transmission lines across the 1.5-mile route to its new home.

That’s where Met-Ed line workers came in. On the day of the move, crews worked to safely clear the way, de-energizing and lifting power lines above the schoolhouse, including elevation of a high-voltage conductor.

“There are so few of the old schoolhouses left. I think it was cool that our community worked to save this piece of local history instead of tearing it down,” said Lori Lobb, Met-Ed Distribution designer who helped plan and coordinate line clearance for the move. “I feel that it is important to remember where we came from.”

With its generations-old stone walls reinforced with steel bands, and the path opened by Met-Ed, the schoolhouse arrived at the Berks County Heritage Center and settled onto its new foundation.

The trip took a little over three hours, and hundreds of community members turned out to watch. At its new home, the historic structure will be renovated for use in educational demonstrations and events.

A close-up of Neil George safely lifting a de-energized line.

Community members watch as the Epler Schoolhouse makes its way under utility lines on the way to its new home.