Driving east on U.S. Highway 40, past Haymaker Golf Course, a small red building stands alone in a field. With a gabled roof and a bell tower on top, the Mesa School serves as a reminder of life nearly 100 years ago. But what would that look like?
To dispel the mystery for dozens of interested youths, Tread of Pioneers Museum, in cooperation with the city of Steamboat Springs, is holding a series of demonstration days at the schoolhouse to give visitors a sense of what life was like when it opened in 1916.
During the first day of the re-enactments Wednesday, museum program coordinator Heidi Feldman played the role of schoolmarm for dozens of children in the Kids' Adventure Club, and museum coordinators say they expect even more youth groups to attend the next event July 30.
Dressed in a period costume, Feldman showed the children pictures of the old schoolhouse and the students who attended classes there.
"How did it get to be so old?" one student asked.
Students were given lessons on the intricacies of old-fashioned toys and games, including jacks, pick-up sticks, marbles and Jacob's ladders. They also were encouraged to imagine how life must have been different for students in 1916.
"There are so many things that we take for granted, like how you get to school," Feldman said. "Do you walk or do you ski?"
The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places after it was restored in 1999 by Historic Routt County and donated to the city of Steamboat Springs. During that restoration, Feldman explained, the building was painted red, instead of its original white.
She also dispelled the notion of the building serving as a one-room schoolhouse. Although all students in grades one through eight studied in the same big room, there also was a library next to the classroom, which has now been converted into restrooms to eliminate the need for outhouses on the property.
Craig Robinson, who helps operate the schoolhouse for the city's Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department, said the building is usually available by reservation only for meetings and is locked the rest of the time. Because of the high cost of heating the space, it is available only from about mid-May to mid-October.
In addition to the open house July 30, the museum will host two more days in August. Those dates have not yet been determined.
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