A one-room schoolhouse from Billings’ earliest days will soon be converted into a drive-through coffee kiosk.
The building, at 4028 Central Ave., was sold along with the rest of the former Mark Cetrone Photography property in January. Buyer David Eggebrecht plans to call the coffee kiosk The Holy Bean and hopes to have it running by spring.
The developments are the most recent in a wave of change hitting the far West End, with corn and beet fields giving way to housing subdivisions. The area, located at Central Avenue and Shiloh Road, will soon be home to a new 126-unit apartment complex called Shiloh Commons. Shiloh Crossing, an outdoor shopping mall, is just a mile south.
Eggebrecht also owns the Shiloh Village Estates mobile home park across Shiloh Road from the newly bought property. He said that in addition to the coffee kiosk, the property will eventually include an ice cream and pizza parlor and a brewery. Eggebrecht plans to start the new ventures from scratch rather than lease the space to independent businesses.
Eggebrecht said the new coffee drive-through will have a nostalgic feel.
“We’re trying to keep it preserved as much as we can,” he said. “It is a landmark, you know.”
The old schoolhouse was gutted by a fire set by vandals in July 2016. Eggebrecht plans to pour a new foundation for the building and retrofit the inside for coffee sales, but he hopes to keep as much the same as possible.
Last year’s fire damaged another, larger building on the property, which housed a vocational education center and served as a haunted house each Halloween before becoming home to the Cetrone photography studios. Most of the larger building will be demolished, but a couple of walls will remain and be used for the new restaurant and brewery.
Eggebrecht, a Billings native who lives part time in California, said he’s not rushing those projects and doesn’t have a timeline.
Lisa Centrone, former owner of the property, said the lot had been on the market for a couple of years and she’d gotten plenty of interest in the late 19th century Shiloh School, which the Cetrone photography company used in photo shoots. Some people expressed interest in the building being preserved rather than torn down.
But Elisabeth DeGrenier, community historian at the Western Heritage Center, said that if it’s done right, local history buffs like seeing old buildings repurposed for new uses, including commercial.
“Since the town grew so fast, there were so many historic buildings that were lost, that preserving those buildings is a good thing, in our eyes,” she said.