Steamboat Springs Enthusiasm never fades from Linda Long’s voice when she talks about a building that for decades has stood empty near a coal mine west of Steamboat, a building mostly remembered in the pages of old, dusty newspapers and in family anecdotes.
The white paint on the wooden walls of the Foidel Canyon Schoolhouse started to peel off years ago, and its foundation continues to sag and flood with rainwater. Once in a while, a tour bus from Oak Creek’s Tracks and Trails Museum will drive by.
But the historic building still looks about the same as it did when it closed its doors and dismissed students for the last time in the early 1960s, Long said Sunday.
Four years ago, the longtime South Routt resident asked for a bucket of paint and some windows to make sure the schoolhouse didn’t fade further into the landscape.
Long got more than she asked for Saturday when 20 volunteers armed with weed whackers and fresh plates of glass arrived at the historic building to give it new life before winter.
“It’s a historical landmark that has been there for a lot of people,” Long said. “You don’t want to see a building and a story like this disappear.”
Historic Routt County, which just completed restoration of Steamboat’s Yock Cabin with the help of Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, is taking on the restoration of the Foidel Canyon Schoolhouse as its next major renovation project.
Historic Routt County Executive Director Meg Tully said Sunday that the schoolhouse’s restoration will cost $55,000 with funding being provided by Peabody Energy, which owns the land that the schoolhouse sits on near Twentymile Mine, as well as Yampa Valley Community Foundation and other grant sources still being sought.
Tully, Long and the other volunteers on Saturday repaired several of the schoolhouse’s windows, improved drainage around its foundation and cleaned out its interior as they completed the first phase of the restoration efforts that will continue in summer 2012.
“You might think this is just a rural, old schoolhouse with no importance,” Tully said. “But it was a hub between South Routt, West Routt and Steamboat Springs. Even today, it helps to tell a story of all of Routt County.”
And it’s a story Long knows well.
“My husband’s grandfather helped to build that school in 1926,” Long said, adding that it served several early homesteading families in Routt County. “It’s really important we keep it alive and well not just for our families that have ties there, but for the whole community, as well.”
Long and Tully said the building serves as a reminder of Routt County’s heritage that includes strong ties to agriculture and mining as well as rural schoolhouses like Foidel Canyon that were necessary to educate students before bus routes allowed them to attend larger schools in Steamboat, Hayden and Oak Creek.
Many of the rural schoolhouses closed after schools in Routt County were consolidated in the late 1950s, Long said.
As a longtime South Routt School Board member and educator, she said the Foidel Canyon restoration project is something she’s worked for years to make a reality.
“The school bell went missing years ago, but everything else is the same,” Long said after she helped button up the site’s schoolhouse, teacherage and coal shed for winter.
She said before the old bell on top of the building stopped dismissing about 20 children of all ages from classes each day, the schoolhouse also hosted traveling pastors, farmers union meetings and nurses who made bandages and supplies for the Red Cross during the height of World War II.
“It’s really important we keep this building alive,” Long said. “Just like everything else, it needs some tender, loving care.”
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com