Museum move was quite a show

There was something refreshingly small-town about Wednesday’s move of the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum building from Strawberry Hill Park into Winslow.

It had something to do with the sheer novelty of seeing the historic red schoolhouse trundling along under tow, but it was also more than that – it was how that sight emptied businesses and public buildings all along its route. Library patrons, restaurateurs, school kids, shoppers, random passersby – everyone, it seemed, put their regular business aside for a little while to watch history crawl past.

And folks were well-versed in the lore of the well-traveled schoolhouse. As one gal with whom we spoke observed: “That’s building’s gotten around more than I have, and that’s saying something.”

Part of the fun was handicapping the Monroe House Moving crew’s prospects at maneuvering the less-than-wieldy structure around this obstacle or that. Every bundle of wires along the route raised eyebrows, but the peaked roof danced a fair limbo with the aid of crews from Puget Sound Energy and other utilities. Negotiating the roundabout proved short work, although the building gave new meaning to the signs cautioning, “Circle Has Right Of Way.”

Down by the Pavilion, the Madison Avenue pedestrian islands offered a particularly tight squeeze, with newly planted saplings on one side of the museum, mature trees and

signposts on the other, and lengthy curbing around which to finesse the independently steered undercarriage that supported the building. And that 90-degree turn into the City Hall parking lot, well...let’s just say that the inches of leeway afforded by the Playhouse marquee and the stop sign opposite looked wholly unaccommodating. But in the museum rolled without a hitch, to cheers and a greeting from the City Hall staff.

It’s not the first building the Monroe folks have relocated on Bainbridge, and certainly not the largest. Yet even those who had been working with Jeff Monroe to set the project in motion were somewhat amazed; notwithstanding the meticulous planning that went into the effort, the big day still had a certain highwire, seat-of-the-pants quality to it.

“He’s so circumspect,” mused Jack Swanson, interim museum director, at one point. “I asked him, ‘how are you going to turn it 180 degrees?’ He said, ‘I don’t know...’” his voice trailing away into reflection.

There are a lot of neat things about working in Winslow every day. One, simple though it might seem, is the chance to leave work, stand at the roadside and gawk when odd things happen; another is running into folks you know, having a good chat and sharing the experience. Wednesday was all of that.

So hats off to the Monroe House Moving, the Bainbridge Island Historical Society, our local utility crews and Bainbridge Police for pulling off with aplomb what may well have been the best parade of the year.

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