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Burned-out John Muir schoolhouse torn down

Demolition work begins Friday on the old John Muir schoolhouse, which was destroyed in an Oct. 14 fire.  The city hasn't decided what will happen to the land.
Demolition work begins Friday on the old John Muir schoolhouse, which was destroyed in an Oct. 14 fire. The city hasn't decided what will happen to the land. Modesto Bee

The old John Muir schoolhouse is coming down brick by brick and wall by wall.

By 11 a.m. Friday, a demolition crew with Don Lawley Co. of Stockton had used an excavator to knock down a north-facing wall of the burned-out building at 800 E. Morris Ave.

Bricks and mortar rained into heaps on the ground.

Heavy-equipment operator Kenneth Klemin said the company will start Monday cleaning mortar off the bricks, which the city plans to recycle.

The city hasn't decided what to do with the bricks. But officials gave the contractor orders to save 10,000 of them for potential commemorative projects. The city also is saving an antique balcony.

Flames gutted the historic schoolhouse Oct. 14 and ravaged artifacts ranging from 1800s wedding dresses to a grand piano. The 1923 brick structure was blackened and badly scarred.

Modesto fire Battalion Chief Hugo Patino said investigators didn't determine the cause of the fire because the building was too dangerous for investigators to work inside.

The building had been a school until the 1950s. The city bought the building in 1953 for $18,000 and turned it into the Community Service Center. The Girl Scouts, the United Way and the Modesto League of Women Voters had their headquarters there. In 2003, the city closed the building to the public, at which point it was used to house about half of the city's artifacts and as a training site for police and firefighters.

On Tuesday, the city awarded a $58,000 contract to Don Lawley Co. to demolish the schoolhouse. The demolition is set to be completed by Feb. 22. The city hasn't decided what will happen to the land.

Bee staff writer Inga Miller can be reached at imiller@modbee.com or 578-2324.

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