The former Muscongus School House on Route 32 in Bremen has been the home to the Muscongus Community Club for over 60 years. (D. Lobkowicz
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By Dominik Lobkowicz
Facing increased expenses, an aging building, aging membership, and declining interest and participation, the Muscongus Community Club’s Secretary/Treasurer Judy Mohr
is looking for a way to keep the organization moving.
Located in the old Muscongus School House on Route 32 in Bremen, Mohr said the club holds fundraisers throughout the year to support local food banks, Bremen’s fire
department and first responders, and to provide scholarships to every Bremen student entering their second year of college.
The club is facing challenges, however, like offsetting expenses: insurance costs alone were over $900 last year, more than the club raised in total for the year, Mohr
The club did present scholarships to two Bremen students in 2013, but did not make donations to the fire department, first responders, or food pantries, she said.
According to Mohr, there is no one single problem contributing to the difficulties of the club. The effects of the increased expenses are exacerbated by less
participation by members, less attendance at fundraisers, and fewer people around with any attachment to the old school house.
The Muscongus School House was built in 1873 and closed in 1942, and some of the club’s original momentum came from graduates’ attachment to the place, Mohr said.
“The last class was in 1942, and very few students remain,” Mohr said. “They’re all in their 80s or 90s.”
The club has not maintained the building as a historical school house, but some features still remain, like the old one-holer out back, Mohr said.
“It still stands,” Mohr said. “We don’t use it, but it’s out there.”
The club has put a lot of money into the building over the years with renovations, repairs, and improvements, Mohr said.
“We’ve made it a really nice meeting space, especially in the three seasons, spring summer and fall,” she said. Heating has been added, and Mohr believes the kitchen
may have been added on to the rear of the building sometime prior to the 1970s.
“We hate to see it sit and rot away,” she said.
The club usually hosts fundraising suppers three times a year in the school house – one bean supper, one with lasagna, and one with ham and sauerkraut – and has the
necessaries to handle up to 70 people in a single sitting, Mohr said.
The ham and sauerkraut supper, born out of another period when the club was struggling in the 1970s, has been the biggest fundraiser for the club, but attendance at
all the suppers has been way down over the last three or four years, she said.
Likewise, the club has seen declining membership. According to Mohr, the club has about 20 members – all retirees or close to it, half of which live in town, and about
five of those regularly attend meetings.
“We’ve got five people that are doing everything for a supper,” Mohr said. “That’s a lot of time, effort, and money out of our own pocket.”
Another fundraiser, the club’s annual country fair, was not held in 2013 due to lack of donated items, Mohr said.
Mohr is looking at several things to help the club: more engagement, donations, and attendance, and bringing back other successful fundraisers.
The club used to raise over $1500 a year for selling chances on a quilt, but volunteers had to travel around the area to sell the chances and someone had to donate
their time and effort to make a quilt, Mohr said.
The building itself is also available for events such as wedding receptions, anniversary and birthday parties for a small fee, she said.
Mohr is also looking into the possibility of the town taking ownership of the building, since the town may have a cheaper way to insure it.
The town might take possession of the building and form a committee to handle it, as is done with the Bremen Town House, she said.
Like the club, though, the Town House also has needs. The Bremen Board of Selectmen and the Bremen Town House Committee have been looking into a rehabilitation project
estimated to cost up to $345,000.
Mohr has gotten permission to talk with the town’s attorney, Jonathan Hull, for clarification on covenants on the club’s property.
The original owners of the property got the property back when the school closed in 1942, and put in a provision for first refusal by themselves, their heirs, or
assignees when they donated the property to the club in 1952.
These days, with the original owners’ property having changed hands, who the first refusal applies to still needs to be clarified, Mohr said.
Even so, selling the club to the town is still just an option, she said.
“I’m just exploring it,” Mohr said. “It may never happen.”
For more information on the Muscongus Community Club, call Judy Mohr at 529-5649.
An earlier edition of this story incorrectly stated the Muscongus Community Club did not present scholarships to Bremen students in 2013. The Lincoln County News regrets the error.