BUFORD I More than 30 years ago, when Janet Clark first came to reside along County Road 6, she remembers recognizing the stately old building as an abandoned school. Now she is spearheading the Rio Blanco County Historical Society committee that is restoring Coal Creek School as an educational and interpretive center for community and visitors.
In July, Coal Creek School was added to the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service. That was a major step in the process toward restoration of this unique historic landmark. The old school was the pride of the rural community upon its completion in 1892, but has stood idle for many years.
Overwhelmingly positive response and support received by the Rio Blanco Rural Schools Project for the rural school site signs and driving tour brochures was the spark needed to begin the application process. History Colorado personnel helped with information and advice for grant funding the Coal Creek School building assessment as a viable candidate structurally, architecturally, and historically.
The next step was the nomination for historic designation on county, state and national registers that make the Coal Creek School restoration project even eligible for grants.
Learning about the preservation and restoration process has taken Clark and her team to the nomination review meeting in Denver, History Colorado State Historical Fund Roundtable held in Meeker, Hayden Heritage Center and Elkhead Schoolhouse Tours. Other historic places within our community and around the state have been compared and studied. Shared stories and photos from local residents or their descendants have brought the history of Coal Creek School to life.
Reminiscent of the pioneer times, restoration of the Coal Creek School needs to be a community-supported endeavor. While funds are available partially by state grants, events to raise the required matching funds will be ongoing.
The first major fundraising event is an old-fashioned dessert box social and dance on Saturday, running from 5 to 9 p.m., hosted by the White River Community Association at the Buford Schoolhouse. The Buford School went through a similar process not many years ago. The public is invited to make this the highlight of your Labor Day weekend.
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