MEEKER | On Jan. 31, 2018, at History Colorado in Denver the 2018 Stephen H. Hart Award for Historic Preservation was presented to the Rio Blanco County and Rio Blanco County Historical Society for the restoration of Coal Creek School. The room was packed with a couple hundred people. History Colorado showed a video of the Coal Creek School restoration before the following people received certificates for Coal Creek School at the Stephen H. Hart ceremony: Eric Jaquez for Rio Blanco County; Ellene Meece and Janet Clark for the Rio Blanco County Historical Society; Joede Schoeberlein, architect, Civic Forum Assoc., Inc.; and Trevor Everett, MM-Eight Construction. The Stephen H. Hart awards are given to outstanding projects and individual achievements in archaeology and historic preservation throughout Colorado.
Patience and perseverance are necessary to restore historical buildings. It has taken more than five years to restore the Coal Creek School, buildings and property. It is still a work in progress. The Hart award never would have happened if we hadn’t worked with and hired people dedicated and passionate about preserving a historical building to its original appearance. The Coal Creek School restoration started in 2013 with the expertise of architect Joede Schoeberlein, Civic Forum Associates, who had seen the school about 13 years ago and started drawing plans to restore Coal Creek School to its original appearance. Those plan sat in his office until 2013 when he was contacted by the Rio Blanco County Historical Society – Rural School Committee of Marge Rogers, Martha Cole, Ellen Reichert and Janet Clark. Joede introduced us to History Colorado. Joede and History Colorado helped us navigate through the process of having Coal Creek School listed on National and Colorado Registers, obtaining a Historic Structural Assessment grant, and the State Historic Fund grant in 2016 for the exterior restoration of the school.
The Rio Blanco County Historical Society believed in this project. They helped with numerous fund raisers and signed numerous papers to secure grants and funds for the project. Rio Blanco County who owns the property on behalf of the Rio Blanco County Historical Society was instrumental in guiding us through the bid process, with legal documents, overseeing the construction, grading, listing Coal Creek School on the Rio Blanco County Historic Preservation Register, as well as giving us grants to do the project.
MM-Eight Construction from Glenwood Springs helped our very inexperienced Rural School team understand the construction process and saved much of the original exterior and interior trim and wainscot. What they couldn’t save they rebuilt as close as possible to the original pieces. They hired the best area craftsmen for each specialty area and used local people, stores and businesses as much as possible for supervision, labor, materials and supplies.
This was truly a state and community effort. History Colorado helped us with over $185,000 in grants to see the Coal Creek School restored. Numerous other grants, businesses, organizations and individual donations helped us raise matching money for the project. The people of Meeker and Northwest Colorado supported the project from the beginning. Who would have thought that a dessert auction, yard and bake sales, spaghetti dinner, a rubber ducky race and selling lots of root beer floats could help raise enough money to restore this 125-year-old historical building to its original appearance? The people of Rio Blanco County all deserve an award for trusting and supporting us in turning a neglected rural school into an award-winning building.
The belfry is in the process of being built and should be in place this summer. In 2018 the completion of the property, privy/coal shed and horse shed will make Coal Creek School a place for people of all ages to learn about Rio Blanco County rural schools. Coal Creek School may also be rented for small events. Any rental fees will help us maintain this historical award winning building as it was in 1892.