You can almost hear the laughter and chalk on the chalkboards at this unique schoolhouse that drew children travelling on horseback and skis from Hayden, Oak Creek and Steamboat Springs.
Historic Routt County, in partnership with Peabody-Twentymile Coal, LLC. and the Historical Society of Oak Creek and Phippsburg, has been working on a multi-year project to restore the historic Foidel Canyon Schoolhouse on Twentymile Road. The project, known as Our Hands: Helping to Preserve Our Heritage for Future Generations, is almost done – Just a little more work to go!
Jerry Nettleton, Manager of Environmental Affairs for Peabody Energy’s Twentymile Coal, LLC (owner of the schoolhouse and associated structures), describes the efforts on this project the best. Nettleton was honored with HRC’s Historic Preservation Leadership Award in 2013 for his exemplary efforts on this project. He describes what this project has meant to him:
“I’m humbled, because there are so many individuals who contributed as much or more than I did to what we have accomplished with the Foidel Canyon School. I would like to think that I accept this award as the representative for the many who contributed to this effort.
I look back five years or more and think about the north foundation of the school that was collapsing, the windows that were broken and letting birds inside, the woodpecker holes in the eaves, and what little paint that remained that was hanging on for dear life. Now, the foundation is sound, the holes in the windows and eaves have been repaired, and the school and teacherage wear a fresh coat of paint and should stand for many more years.
What we have accomplished took the efforts of many people. Some had more vision than others (Arianthe Stettner and Meg Tully); some more skill (Bud Rogers with H.E. Rogers Construction and Mark Wertheimer and the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps’ Historic Preservation Crew); some more knowledge (Towny Anderson, former HRC Executive Director); some more perseverance (volunteers Linda Long, Rita Herold, Nita Naugle and Renee Johnson with the Historical Society of Oak Creek and Phillpsburg); some more artistic ability (Gregory Block); some more resources; and the rest of us possessing varying combinations of these. But it took all of us to get where we are today.
While the Foidel School building and teacherage have been the focus of our efforts, there’s much more to the story. That story now includes all of us who now have a connection to the school and its history, to each other, and to the success story that we can share with others.
Let me tell you some of that story:
The School was built in 1925 by several area residents, including Dusty Long’s grandfather, and it operated until 1957. As part of the permitting effort for the Energy Fuels Mines, a cultural resource survey of the property was done in 1979. CYCC completed structural stabilization and some exterior work on the school in 1983-1984, and on May 9, 1983, the School was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
I started with Twentymile Coal in 2004, and when I came on, I had plenty on my plate to keep me very busy for several years. About five years ago, I had a little breathing room and recognized that the School needed some attention and help. Local resident Linda Long had contacted me before that and asked about doing something with the School. Frankly, I knew that something needed to be done, but had no idea how to go about doing it, given the historic designation and limited resources. About that time several of us, including Linda, Nita Naugle, Arianthe Stettner, and others got together and started talking. We didn’t come up with any solutions right away, but as we got together and talked, we started to get some ideas about how to move forward, and got comfortable with committing to work together.
The first big step happened about the time Meg Tully came on board as Executive Director of HRC, when Twentymile agreed to fund an Historic Structure Assessment, and Towny Anderson (former HRC Executive Director) agreed to complete the assessment for the amount of funding we had available. After that, the pieces really started to fall into place, with RMYC’s Historic Preservation Crew coming off their first successful restoration effort on the Yock Cabin and More Barn and being available to for the Project, with Peabody agreeing to make a significant contribution to the project, with HRC and the Oak Creek and Phippsburg Historical Society pursuing additional grant funding, and with HRC securing the services of Bud Rogers as an experienced historic preservation contractor to lead the effort.
The first on-the-ground work effort on the School came together as a volunteer workday in early October 2011. The weather forecast was for mixed rain and snow, but God smiled on us, and the 20 volunteers had a beautiful fall day to clear brush and weeds, fix the fence, stabilize the coal shed and get the site ready for the major work effort the following summer. In mid-July 2012, HRC was able to hire Bud Rogers and the RMYC Historic Preservation Crew, who hit the ground running and made major progress in removing the old paint, completing the needed exterior and window repairs, and painting the School. Bud Rogers continued working on the Schoolhouse foundation, windows, and other work once the RMYC Crew had completed their contract with HRC. In September 2012, our faithful volunteers came out again for another Volunteer workday, a barbeque celebrating the progress to-date, and a “thank-you” and update from HRC on plans and needs to finish the project. A highlight of the day was the participation of several people who had attended the School who shared their memories with the volunteers.
As part of the fund-raising effort for the Project, Gregory Block, a recognized young artist, visited and photographed the Schoolhouse before work began in the summer, and from the photos, painted a picture of the School to be auctioned to benefit the Project. Several supporters of historic preservation stepped up and contributed to purchase this wonderful painting, which raised close to $3500. In July 2013, we had our most recent volunteer workday, with a great turnout to complete work on the schoolhouse and teacherage foundations and additional paint removal and structural repairs on the teacherage. A celebration was held in conjunction with the Tracks and Trails Labor Day Historic Tour, where the Gregory Block painting was presented to the Tracks and Trails Museum.
Our work is not done, as we still need and want to put some finishing touches on the project, completing work on the teacherage and grounds, finding a school-bell, and partially furnishing the School’s interior. Our next step is to coordinate to make this wonderful resource available to our communities to learn about the settlement of the area and the foundations of community it represents that we still benefit from today.
While the story is about the Foidel Canyon School, the more important story is the connection it represents to our history and heritage, our connections to each other, and the success story that we can share with others that can inspire and encourage us as we look at other similar projects in the future.”
Many thanks to the following organizations, businesses and individuals for their donations and support of the Foidel project: Peabody Energy – Peabody/TwentyMile Coal LLC – Jerry Nettleton; Routt County Museum & Heritage Fund Advisory Board & Routt County Commissioners; Yampa Valley Community Foundation Gloria Gossard and Glas Deffryn Ranch Funds; National Trust for Historic Preservation Peter Grant Fund; Historical Society of Oak Creek & Phippsburg; H.E. Rogers Construction LLC – Bud and Peggy Rogers; Rocky Mountain Youth Corps; Gregory Block, artist; Giglio Fine Furniture – Keith Giglio; Garry Dulin; Pam and Steve Williams; Kathy Cline and Carl Steidtmann; Shine and Russ Atha; Arianthé and Paul Stettner; Cindy and John Wither; Pamela Duckworth and Tracy Barnett.