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End Uses of Rural Historic Community Buildings

  • 1.  End Uses of Rural Historic Community Buildings

    Posted 13 days ago
    I am writing to find examples of successful historic building reuse projects in rural areas, particularly those with a community focus or public end use. The key is active stewardship in low populated/low tourist destination areas. Projects that involve historic school structures a plus.

    What partnerships made these projects possible? If the building isn't used all the time, who is responsible for maintaining it? 

  • 2.  RE: End Uses of Rural Historic Community Buildings

    Posted 12 days ago
    Edited by Meg Dunn 12 days ago

    Buckeye School in Northern Colorado was built in 1925 and is now used as a community hall. (Unfortunately History Colorado's page doesn't include current uses. But if you want to talk with someone who helps maintain the school, I can get you in touch.) 

    Most of the rest of our older rural schools in Larimer County are either museums or residences now.

    I know I heard of a project elsewhere in Colorado with a beautiful stone building that was being turned into a community center, but I don't remember where it was. If I find it, I'll post it here. 

    ... Hmmm, in rereading your post, I'm realizing you weren't looking just for schools that are now community buildings, but any community building now being reused in some way? Is that right? Still being used as a community building or otherwise?

    Meg Dunn
    Fort Collins CO

  • 3.  RE: End Uses of Rural Historic Community Buildings

    Posted 12 days ago
    Thank you, Meg! Yes, the building at play in this instance is a historic school building. It is in a county with a total population of 1600. So, community hall may be out of the question re: continuous stewardship. I am eager to hear a variety of answers, however, because we get continuous calls with similar pleas for assistance, which aren't always school buildings.

    Rebecca Fenwick
    Ethos Preservation
    PO Box 3125
    Savannah, GA 31402

  • 4.  RE: End Uses of Rural Historic Community Buildings

    Posted 12 days ago
    Hi Rebecca,

    I worked on Crossan's Market, an adaptive reuse project to rehab a vacant general store into a regional visitor center/ museum space on the first floor and town hall on the second floor. For context, the town of Yampa has a population of ~3,000, but it is only 30 miles away from Steamboat Springs, which is a resort town. Also, Yampa is considered the gateway to a major wilderness area, and we were looking for ways to get people to pull over and stop in town on their way into the outdoors. The town owns and maintains the building and I think they have operating agreements with the local organizations that use the first floor.

    In rural Routt County, we have a few community centers (one of which is a one-room school) that need some kind of additional use to remain activated and maintained. The community group that operates the one-room school hosts weekly dances (pre-covid). But with the funds donated by community members, they can barely pay for insurance. It's a challenge!

    Emily Katzman
    Steamboat Springs CO

  • 5.  RE: End Uses of Rural Historic Community Buildings

    Posted 12 days ago

    Our history museum (small rural town in coastal northern California) is housed in the old 1921 Tomales High School auditorium / gymnasium, still with the original long rows of double-hung windows, ceiling trusses, schoolhouse pendant lights, and fir floor. A new school was built at another site in 1969, the classrooms of the old school burned in 1977, but the stand-alone building was saved. In mid-1990s?? the museum needed a larger home and the school district offered th old auditorium to us for a very nominal rent.

    All the renovation was paid for by the museum, and it included a lot of volunteer labor, but it has been a wonderful venue for our museum. On the auditorium's original stage is a comprehensive exhibit featuring the old high school -- its history and its current incarnation. Our ties with the school are still close, and many of our Board Members are alumni of Tomales High. As the curator, I consider the simple, vaguely Craftsman-style building to be our largest artifact, and one of our most important and beloved.

    Ginny MacKenzie Magan???? (Tomales Regional History Center)

  • 6.  RE: End Uses of Rural Historic Community Buildings

    Posted 12 days ago
    Hello Rebecca, The former Sheldon Jackson College campus, which  sat vacant for years after the college suddenly closed, was given to a summer camp program, the Sitka Fine Arts Camp. We finished the restoration of  the central building that had been on the 11 most endangered list in the 1990s, and hadn't been used since that time. Much of the most recent project funding came from donors inspired by the community effort to restore the campus buildings to their 1911 glory. Everyone wants to be a part of a success story.
    The camp was able to survive the pandemic in part by using reserves built up through renting the buildings  for special events and for housing, and, of course, grant funding. The trick is to find as many compatible uses for the buildings when they're not being used for their primary purposes. We actively look to host conferences and the like.
    Here's a photo from today. during the first week of a camp for youngsters held since 2019. Makes me want to cry.
    Camp today

    James Poulson
    Sitka AK

  • 7.  RE: End Uses of Rural Historic Community Buildings

    Posted 7 days ago
    Hi Rebecca,

    The Red Lodge Community Foundation in Red Lodge Montana acquired a school building and is turning it into a muti cultural arts center.
    The NEA's Our Town program funds such projects.  The NEA's Citizens' Institute on Rural Design funded a 3 day learning workshop
    in Red Lodge that brought in experts from around the country who do adaptive reuse of school buildings as arts centers for a living but
    whom the folks in Red Lodge didn't know about.  Linking folks to professionals who have already reinvented the wheel and have all (or most)
    of the answers is a great first step.  And figuring who is going to run this and how that is funded is definitely a much needed and necessary early
    step as it guides the process of engaging partners and stakeholders and building the partnerships for funding applications.  In Tuttle, ND the project was to take an elementary school and turn it into a food and farm hub, maker space, and offices for regional non profits with a performance componentn and a full on commercial kitchen. The town has 400 people but the region or county has 30 towns within 30 miles and each had
    some asset that created an anchor.  These projects and many others are on the website. I ran this program for the NEA from 2012 to 2018.  Good luck! Cynthia Nikitin

    Cynthia Nikitin
    Friends of Brunel Park The Emile Brunel Studio and Sculpture Park
    Boiceville NY