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Fourth R: Restoration


Ben Rose, 5, works on his slate at one of the old-time desks Friday as the one-room Jore Schoolhouse on the EWU campus in Cheney celebrated its centennial.  
 (Christopher Anderson/ / The Spokesman-Review)
Ben Rose, 5, works on his slate at one of the old-time desks Friday as the one-room Jore Schoolhouse on the EWU campus in Cheney celebrated its centennial. (Christopher Anderson/ / The Spokesman-Review)

CHENEY – The Jore Schoolhouse celebrated its 100th birthday Friday, thanks mostly to a rebirth sparked by Charles Miller.

Miller, a retired history professor with a thing for schoolhouses, discovered the dilapidated building near Newport in 1999. He talked Eastern Washington University administrators into buying it, and now the school sits on campus, a smartly restored relic of another time.

“I was always looking for a schoolhouse,” said Miller, 79. “When I finally got here and got tenure, I thought, ‘Go for it.’ “

The schoolhouse’s centennial was marked Friday with tours and 1905 classroom simulations, complete with a dunce cap and lessons on “conduct and deportment.”

Students attended the school – sometimes arriving by horseback – until 1929. It sat empty for 70 years before the university brought it to campus in 2000.

“It looked good from the outside, but it was really gutted on the inside,” said Rita Seedorf, an EWU professor and director of the Cheney Normal School Heritage Center, as the school is now known. “We finished the inside last year.”

The school room has new woodwork, lights and even air conditioning, but retains many vintage touches, from the desks with room for inkwells to the woodstove in the back. The restoration, built through lots of donations and volunteer work, cost about $250,000.

Miller noted that the original building cost just $100 to build. “But my father worked for 10 cents an hour in those days,” he said.

Miller’s passion for the one-room schoolhouse reaches deep into history – he notes that the schoolhouses sprang up as a formal part of President Thomas Jefferson’s plan for national expansion after the Louisiana Purchase. The idea of a basic education for all citizens was a key tenet of Jeffersonian democracy, Miller said.

Family history plays a part for Miller, as well. His mother attended a one-room school in Illinois. He built one in Western Washington. His backyard patio is made of schoolhouse bricks.

“I like schoolhouses,” he said. “That’s all there is to it.”

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