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Demolition underway for old Viola School, sparks memories among former students

Viola School was part of the Anamosa School District and, for a time, catered to students K-12. It closed down 20 years ago.

An old structure in viola, which was once a school to corridor students is now coming down after nearly 100 years.

The demolition process for the former Viola School began on Thursday. It was part of the Anamosa School District and catered to students K-12 since 1922, but it closed down 20 years ago. People who knew these halls the best say this demolition has been a long time coming.

"[There were] a lot...a lot of fond memories. [I] really hate to see it go," said 79-year-old Ed Hart.

Hart said seeing the Viola School fall down brings back a rush of memories from when he once attended.

"I met my wife," he said. "My wife went to school here. [We] grew up got married."

"It was glorious. It was a glorious school in its heyday, and I really wanted to fix it up," said grounds owner Heidi Liegl.

Five years ago, Heidi Liegl became the fourth person to buy the school grounds, after other owners made failed attempts to convert the building or tear it down.

Yet, Liegl could not find a way to restore the structure to what it was back in 1998.

"I ran structural engineers through here. Not one. Not two, but several of them, and we found that the main beams in the basement were cracked and it was starting to implode upon itself anyway," she said.

"It's too bad that when it went down that they didn't try to preserve it, to keep it, to do something," said Hart, "but after a few years you could see where it was starting to deteriorate."

"Now we're to the point where we're going to put in a winery. We're going to keep the gymnasium to turn it into an event space," said Liegl.

Among the rubble of what was once a model school in the county, Liegl said pieces of Viola will still hang on.

"We're saving as much as we can," she said. "There is a good wood floor in the back that's [going to] help put a new roof in the gym."

Hart and his family, like others who still remember every detail within Viola's former classrooms, said they are excited to see Viola become a foundation for new memories.

"Hopefully it'll bring some people into the community and get it started again," he said.

Liegl said the Linn County Board ofAdjustments still need to approve the plans for the winery and orchard in place of the school. That meeting will happen next Wednesday.

If approved, she said she hopes the event center inside the former gymnasium will be open by June 2019, but the rest of construction could take longer.

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