Rocky Mountain Youth Corps volunteers Kris Gayer, left, and Austin Bail work on the roof of the Foidel Canyon Schoolhouse on Monday afternoon. Historic Routt County is leading the effort to restore the structure that sits near Twentymile Coal Mine.
Steamboat Springs Marieta Nelson hated watching the paint slowly chip away and the foundation crumble.
It hurt to see the holes woodpeckers punched into the walls of her school.
And the roof didn’t look very good either.
“For years, I’ve watched this school just go downhill,” she said inside the Foidel Canyon Schoolhouse on Monday afternoon. “I thought pretty soon, it will be falling down.”
Nelson, 65, was chipper as she walked on top of the creaking maple wood floors inside the school she attended from 1953 to 1956.
The large school bell was stolen from the top of the building a long time ago, but a few desks, a stove and some character still lives inside.
As she toured the school Monday, Nelson pointed to the coat closet she and her classmates hid inside of to avoid their teacher. She recalled the horseback rides to class. She was happy the building and its history won’t crumble.
“It was a wonderful place to go to school,” she said.
A restoration project led by Historic Routt County will revive the dying building.
Under the supervision of H.E. Rogers Construction, volunteers from the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps on Monday added a fresh coat of white paint to the schoolhouse that opened in 1925 and dismissed students for the last time in the late 1950s.
In October, a group of 20 volunteers kicked off the project when they repaired several of the schoolhouse’s windows, improved drainage around its foundation and cleaned out its interior.
“It’s too bad everyone couldn’t have the experience of going to a country school,” Nelson said. “In the summertime, we would ride our horses here. In the wintertime, the road didn’t get plowed real good, so my dad built a little wooden box on a pair wooden pair of skis. Me and my sister would get in the thing, and he’d dally around the saddle horn and put ol’ Susie into a trot and bring us to school.”
As they applied the first of two coats of latex paint on the west side of the schoolhouse on Monday, Youth Corps volunteers Allie Andrews and Taylor Zabel could only imagine what it was like to attend school in such a setting.
“You probably would know all of your schoolmates pretty well,” Zabel said.
Andrews predicted it was “probably pretty quiet” and “chilly in the winter.”
The schoolhouse and its accompanying teacherage and coal shed were built in the canyon before railroad tracks and the Twentymile Coal Mine. It was one of the many one-room schoolhouses in the county that served clusters of homesteaders until Routt County’s schools were consolidated.
“It isn’t just a school,” said South Routt resident Linda Long, who helped initiate the restoration effort. “It hosted community functions and dances.”
Historic Routt County has partnered with the Youth Corps, Peabody Energy, the Historical Society of Oak Creek and Phippsburg and the Tracks and Trails Museum to restore the structure and eventually open it up to public tours.
Historic Routt County Executive Director Meg Tully said Peabody Energy, which owns the land the schoolhouse resides on, has contributed $25,000 towards its restoration, and the Yampa Valley Community Foundation has donated $3,500. She said about $27,000 still needs to be raised toward the project’s $55,000 price tag. Tully added that grant funding also could narrow the fundraising gap.
“I went to school there, and I would like to see it preserved,” Nelson said. “I love that it’s being taken care of. I really do. Those four years of country school were wonderful.”