Old Prairie School Receives Makeover - KFYRTV.COM - Bismarck, ND - News, Weather, Sports

Old Prairie School Receives Makeover

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An old prairie school near Williston has received an extreme makeover from a former student. 
Floyd Miller is getting high marks for design and creativity after he turned a cluster of classrooms into an functional hay barn and storage shed.

Putting up hay is elementary on the Miller farm.  Floyd Miller spent eight years learning how to read and write inside this building.  When the Pioneer School was auctioned off in 1995, he bid a dollar for the structure, then did his homework and figured out a way to remodel it into a barn by gutting all the second floor classrooms and cutting pitching doors into the upper level walls.

"When I cut out that header in it was 16 feet wide, I did it myself, I built it one board at a time and when I  tore the wall out I just left it until the very end," says Williston resident, Floyd Miller.

The Millers specialize in small, square, fifty pound hay bales used for horse feed, and the second floor of the school is a perfect fit for those types of bundles.

The Pioneer School was built in 1925 and remodeled several times before it was turned into a barn.  In the 1950s a gymnasium was added as part of another unusual renovation by attaching a one-room school to the back of the building.

"It was heated and we used it for volleyball and basketball," says Floyd Miller. 

"That gym seemed awful big back then....The rims were mounted on the end walls so when you went in for a layup you hit the wall," says Williston resident, Rodney Miller. 

The original bell that summoned students still rings and an old grade book that was found in the building reveals the class schedule in the early 1900s was much different than the modern school year.  Back then harsh weather and harvesting interrupted education.

"They took January and February off, I suppose because of the hard and cold winter and then they started school again in March, April and May," says Floyd Miller. "Teachers were housed in the basement, that space is now used for storage." 

The Millers spent over 12-thousand dollars to reshingle the roof and added some lean-tos to shelter their combines.  Every now and then the hayloft is cleared out and used for barn dances.  An all school reunion attracted hundreds of former students, who marveled at how their school had been upgraded into a structure that will pass the test of time.



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