Group determined to save Gale School says building is sound

BELMONT — A recent report commissioned and paid for by the Save our Gale School Committee says an inspector found the now empty building to be very solid.

Diane Marden said inspector Alex Azodi P.W.E. of Omega Structural Engineers in Newberry, N.H. wrote that, with the exception of the brick foundation, the now empty building "appears to be in a structurally sound condition."

"The wood walls and posts supporting the floor and roof framing and plumb or very near plumb and do not show any visible signs of structural overstress or movement," she quoted Azodi as saying.

She said Azodi also wrote that the "bell tower is straight and there wasn't any perceptible lean in any direction."

Marden, Conservation Commission Chair Ken Knowlton and former School Board Chair Pret Tuthill are members of the privately formed and funded committee that's planning on making a presentation for saving the building to the Shaker Regional School Board on September 10.

The group is being tight-lipped about the contents of its presentation, which will be also be made, more-or-less simultaneously, to an unnamed agency or individual that could assist the school district in preserving and reusing the former school. Beyond that, Marden said people would have to be patient about learning details of their ideas.

Discussions surrounding the Gale School resurfaced when town officials formed a Belmont Property Assessment Committee and tasked it with inspecting and assessing the condition of every town-owned building.

Although the Gale School belongs to the Shaker Regional School District and not the town, a few members of the committee did a quick walk-around, looking mostly at its foundation.

In his presentation to the Selectboard in July, building Inspector Steve Paquin said he didn't think the old school was restorable and noted the problems with the foundation. He said in his opinion if the building was relocated from its perch behind the Belmont Middle School, as has been discussed for a number of years, it would likely fall down.

He also noted the building was too big to be relocated in one piece in that the telephone wires were too low and the roads were likely too narrow.

On August 16, the N.H. Division of Historical Resources weighed in and informed the town and the school district that, in their opinion, the Gale School is historically and architecturally significant and is part of what they call the Belmont Factory Historic District that includes the Library, the Corner Meeting House, The Belmont Mill, and the bandstand.

Marden said on the night Knowlton and Tuthill make their presentation to the School Board, she will be making a similar presentation to the as yet undivulged entity or person that could make restoration feasible.

The Gale School was built in 1894 and was later named for the same Laconia banker — Napoleon B. Gale — whose name is one the city's public library. His will instructed that $10,000 of his estate was to be donated to the Town of Belmont. Gale represented Belmont in the state Legislature in 1868-69.

By the mid 1950s, the school was being used only for administrative office space and its rooms were further relegated to use only for cold storage when the new elementary school opened in 1985.

Donations to the Save our Gale School Committee can be made at Franklin Savings Bank, P.O Box 339, Franklin, NH 03235. More information about the Gale School can be found at