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Landmarks: Schoolhouse still occupies original county site

Thu., Nov. 3, 2011

Once it was just one of 18 one-room schoolhouses serving the rural population in a small region of northwest Spokane County, but today the Central School District No. 49 schoolhouse is the only one still at its original site, as all the others have either been moved or torn down.

This one-room schoolhouse, located just west of the intersection of Ritchey and Four Mound roads, several miles north of Deep Creek, began service in September 1900. Now on both the National (1992) and Spokane (1991) Registers of Historic Places, it stands isolated out in the country but in a remarkably well-preserved condition on its stone foundation. Some improvements – new roof, new front porch – have helped keep it intact.

“It’s largely unused now, mostly because there’s no indoor plumbing, but occasionally someone will rent it for a birthday party or a meeting,” said Rod Clouse, chairman of the board of commissioners of the West Greenwood Cemetery District No. 2, which owns the building.

Solving the bathroom problem is a neat and tidy wood outhouse out back, which is kept clean and supplied with toilet paper.

The 24-by-16-foot schoolhouse has an 8-foot-wide porch sheltering the two front entrances – one for boys, one for girls, as was customary in the days of one-room schoolhouses. A triangle sign erected on the upper gable in 1904 states that this is the home of Central School District No. 49.

The school opened at the beginning of the school year in 1900 with 52 students and one teacher – Miss Lillian Scott, who earned $40 per month – teaching grades 1 through 8. It was not the first school in the immediate vicinity. The original Central School, known as Baldwin School, was situated east of the current building, but the school board voted in 1899 to replace it, and a bond issue in the amount of $600 went toward construction of the new school to be situated on two acres of land just to the west, land purchased for a total of $5.

The “new” school was in active use through 1956 when, due to declining enrollments, it was consolidated with the Reardan Consolidated School Districts. During the last year of classes there, only seven students were enrolled. In 1958, ownership was transferred to Coulee Township, which used it to house various meetings. In 1973 it was deeded to the West Greenwood Cemetery District No. 2 and was the site of meetings of the cemetery district, a home economics club and assorted social events.

Back in the first half of the 20th century, when it was an active school, it also served as a community center. Among the events held there were box socials to raise money for school projects, 4-H meetings, square dances, parties and events held by community clubs.

In the beginning, there was a wood stove for heat, and kerosene lamps gave light. In 1920, a double gas light was purchased for $24 (the hanger for it remains on the wall today), and in 1945 the schoolhouse was wired for electricity. Although there have been improvements to the interior (wallboard and hardwood flooring, for example), much of the original integrity remains.

There is another interesting piece of information about the early school that is pertinent today. Early on there was no water at the site, and the older schoolchildren had the task of walking to a nearby spring to collect buckets of water to the school. In 1924 the school district approved $208 for the drilling of a well in front of the school.

Anyone who visits the site now can still give the hand pump on the well a few pumps and be rewarded with lovely clear water.

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