Children don’t walk, ride horses or ride in horse-drawn wagons to the one-room Riverdale School any more, but memories continue to be made there.
After consolidation of buildings in the Shelley School District, the school built 117 years ago along the New Sweden Highway was closed. It was purchased in 1948 for $250 by members of the Riverdale Grange, a nonprofit farmers organization. Due to dwindling membership, the building closed again in the late 1990s — Riverdale members merged with York Grange on York Road, according to a Riverdale Grange diary written by Sally Hartert of Shelley.
The Riverdale and York granges started separately in 1928 and met in various locations before each found permanent locations. Today, about 22 members meet monthly on the third Friday of each month at the York Grange, said Grange Master Nita Rowe of Idaho Falls.
“Like all fraternal organizations, the Lions and the Elks, it’s hard to get new members because there are so many other entertainment choices today,” Lowe said.
As for the Riverdale Grange building, it was purchased about 15 years ago by Carl Adam and Dan Christopher and renamed the New Sweden Hall. Adam is a chemist who moved to Idaho Falls from St Louis, Mo. Both Adam and Christopher went to work at the Budweiser Malt Plant.
“Dan was the one with the vision. He creatively saw the potential in the building,” Adam said. “I thought the building was a bunch of crap.”
Adam and Christopher have preserved the original building. A belfry with the original bell remains on the roof above the entrance. A parking lot behind the grange now grows grass, flowers and trees. More trees and flowers were planted at the entrance to welcome visitors.
They framed and hung historical documents and decorated with antiques they had or bought with the property, such as a 1940s upright piano. Today, the building is open for practically any event imaginable: weddings, receptions, bachelor parties, dances, family and class reunions and office parties.
Christopher died of cancer about three years ago. Adam continues on with the hall.
“It’s been a lot of work but I think it’s one of the oldest wooden structures around,” Adam said.