(K.S. BROOKS/Chewelah Independent)
Community bands together to save historic building…
Tucked where no one can see it, a little white schoolhouse sits atop a hill in the town of Valley, Washington. It overlooks the town and the valley, and has a fabulous view of the Huckleberry Mountains.
Built in 1916, the Schoolhouse has since been used for home economics classes, social gatherings, community church, the superintendent’s home, janitor’s home and as a classroom. The basement has served as a venue for shop classes, and still has the nickname “The Eagle’s Nest” from its most recent iteration of being a boys’ locker room and football team storage area.
As the years went by, pre-fabricated temporary buildings popped up around the Schoolhouse; more room was needed for offices and specialized classrooms. Eventually, the view of the valley below became obstructed, and the building began to require repairs.
In 2009, Jackie Franks formed the Valley Historical Society in hopes of saving the Schoolhouse and transforming it into a museum and headquarters for the Society. Franks spent the next 10 years fundraising for repairs on the building, getting the community involved and educating the public about the effort. There were a lot of ups and downs, and at one point, Franks and the Valley School were able to get WSU involved in the preservation effort. Then it became obvious that they needed a lot more funds and the building would need to be relocated off school campus. The Historical Society started to run out of options.
Melissa Silvio learned about the Schoolhouse through Franks at a craft fair at the Valley School back in 2016. “At the time, there wasn’t enough funds or support, and it was on the path to demolition,” Silvio recalled. “I just couldn’t let that happen, so I started going to meetings and helping how I could.” Eventually, she became the vice president of the historical society.
“Also, in 2017, we nominated the Schoolhouse and were chosen for the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation Most Endangered Historic Places listing along with a handful of other places around the state,” Silvio explained. “The Washington Trust has been a huge advocate for us. They really helped us get things turned around.”
The Valley Historical Society has also helped turn things around through some very creative fundraising efforts. The first was Barbara Edward’s tiny schoolhouse figurines – Silvio saw them at a craft fair, and the Society started using them in giveaways. Most recently, the historical society has pulled together a cookbook which is available to purchase at Valley Drug Co, Akers United Drug, Gather Boutique, The Independent and Black Sheep Vintage in Chewelah. “There are local and family recipes and also ‘old school’ recipes from dishes they used to make at the Valley School,” Silvio said. “It’s very special, and there are also very nice old pictures in there, specifically of the school cooks and local history.”
The other current fundraiser is a raffle to win a metal detecting session – and a free metal detector donated by Northwest Detector Sales. The detector is valued at $400, and the four-hour detecting session will be conducted by Jesse Klemish and other members of the Historical Society who will be bringing their own detectors. The flyer reads “You never know what you might find.” and around here, that’s definitely true. Raffle tickets are $1 each or six for $5, and they are available through the Valley Historical Society. They are currently looking for more outlets for the tickets, so if your business would be interested in selling them, please contact the Valley Historical Society at 509-937-2338.
The Valley Historical Society is well on their way to raising enough money to not only renovate the Little White Schoolhouse, but also relocate the building to a place where everyone can enjoy it. You can learn more at their Facebook page www.facebook.com/littlewhiteschoolhouse.