Restoration to begin on historic Montezuma schoolhouse
MONTEZUMA – The white paint is peeling off the clapboard siding and the stone rubble foundation is slowly crumbling, but the heart of the Montezuma Schoolhouse is still beating strong with 120 years of history seeping from its windows and doors. Now, the relic from Colorado’s mining boom will begin its second life thanks to a $100,000 restoration project spearheaded by the Summit Historical Society.”It’s a very, very historical building from the standpoint of Montezuma and the county,” Summit Historical Society director Rick Hague said. “It is in its original location, which is unusual for a building that old. It’s a classic one-room schoolhouse and there aren’t many of those left.”The small schoolhouse, which is east of Montezuma’s Main Street, served as one of two of the town’s education bases until 1958.Thirty years later, the Summit School District handed over the school’s title to the Summit Historical Society and while restoration was always the plan for the building, it’s taken some time to kick the project into gear.
“It’s one of those situations where it isn’t getting any better,” Hague said. “Old buildings fall apart. We have to take steps soon or else the building is going to deteriorate.”In December 2003, the historical society got its jump-start in the form of a grant from the Colorado Historical Society to conduct a historic structure assessment test.David Garner, architect and historical society member, spent more than a year analyzing every nook and cranny of the building, then put together the assessment to determine where work was most needed inside and outside the building.”It’s actually in pretty decent shape,” Garner said. “It needs a little tender, loving care, a little work on the foundation.”He used an outline furnished by the state’s historical society to determine recommendations to stabilize the schoolhouse for future uses.The top priority is replacing the foundation.
“From my findings and my diggings, it’s just right at grade. There’s no foundation to speak of,” Garner said.Minor leaks in the tin roof and prepping the exterior for a new paint job are both projects that could be started right away.Getting the schoolhouse listed on the national registry of historic places should also be high-priority for the historical society because it opens the door to countless funding opportunities, Garner said.Garner also suggested long-term work, such as replacing the three rickety steps into the schoolhouse to keep the building compliant with the American Disabilities Act.
Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext.229, or at email@example.comHistory of the house The schoolhouse opened in 1884 during the height of Montezuma’s silver mining days.It was constructed when the town’s first school was determined to be too small for the growing population.The original building was 24 feet by 39 feet with three windows on each side. A cupola, bell, foyer and coal room were added in later years.
Classes were held in the schoolhouse until 1958. Between 1958 and 1988, the town used the building for meetings and social functions, while the school district utilized the space for storage. During that time, town residents repaired vandalism, painted the school and completed other maintenance projects.Tours of the schoolhouse began after the historical society obtained ownership of the building in 1988. Now, visitors are treated to a snapshot of rural education, complete with 24 original desks, textbooks, maps and even a calendar dating back to 1958.Two original outhouses labeled “boys” and “girls” are attached to the rear of the building and represent a sign of the times.The society wants to fix up the school house and continue offering tours, but also expand its use to include weddings, town meetings and private functions.The project could take several years to complete since the historical society depends on donations and in-kind work to complete stages of work.
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