Restoring the Schoolhouse

 - The Beginning -

 

The Mountain Brook School was officially started in December of 1908.  It was a log building made from donated materials.  Much of the work was donated by some bachelors who also built the road we now call Bachelor's Grade.

 

The picture on the left is the original school building as it was in 1914.

 

The school was across the road from the present building.  There were nine pupils and the school term was four months. 

 

In June of 1927, the Brown family donated an acre of land to the community to be used for a school as long as the school was maintained.  A building program was started that was to continue for fifty years.  The new building consisted of one large room (what is now the south side of the schoolhouse).  Later a teacherage was added to the back of the building. 

 

In 1937, stumps were pulled by teams of horses to improve the playground.

 

By the 1940's, plumbing and electricity were installed in the school and the bus route was started.  A garage was built behind the building for the teacher's use.

 

 - Expansion -  

 

In 1954, the school faced a serious problem.  They had more students than ever and the building was not large enough.  The teacherage was converted to a small classroom but even this was not enough.  Meeting after meeting was held trying to find a solution.  Their problem was inadequate funds.  In the end, the district raised $2,000 dollars with the agreement that the money would be used to buy the supplies to expand the school and the community would provide the labor.  

 

The building project began that summer.  Every Saturday the men of the neighborhood worked - each doing what he could.  The trustees worked extra evenings getting projects - cement works for example - started.  The women brought bountiful dinners at noon with extra goodies for four 0'clock coffee.  Everyone enjoyed the food and fellowship.  Sometimes if there were enough left-overs and the men could work late, supper was held at the school, too.  In spite of hard work and sometimes lack of know-how, it was a happy summer. 

 

The building project was completed in time for school in the fall.  The new school appearance was as the building stands today except for some modifications of the front porch in later years.  Oil burners took the place of the old wood stove.  The new burners caused a lot of trouble but a new chimney soon solved the problem.  The two large rooms were divided by a removable partition that could be taken down in the event of a large event.

 

 - Closing of the school - 

 

By the 90's, Mountain Brook School was falling into disrepair and in need of serious updates if it were to continue being used as a school.   The astronomical funds needed to continue its use were not available and in 1995 the decision was made to transfer all classes to Cayuse Prairie School.  For the first time in nine decades, Mountain Brook School fell silent. 

 

Because of the original deed given by the Brown family, once the school was no longer in use the land was to revert back to the family.  The area along Foothill Road had changed a great deal and the land was now desirable as a home site.  It seemed likely the old schoolhouse would be torn down.  

 

 

 - Mountain Brook Homestead Foundation -

 

Years slipped by without anything being done by the Cayuse Prairie school board either to make any repairs to the campus or turn the property back over to the Browns. 

 

In 2001, members of the Mountain Brook community who had memories of the school's better days and did not want to see it destroyed began to hold meetings on the campus to try to find a way to save the historic site.  The original deed from the Browns stated that the land only had to be used in a way that promoted education for the school's right to it to stand.  After much discussion, the idea to form a community library on campus was latched upon.  Permission was sought from the Cayuse Prairie School board to lease the campus from them.  They agreed. 

 

In 2002, the Mountain Brook Homestead Foundation, was formed.  That August, the doors opened on the new Mountain Brook Community Library housed in the gym with its scant collection of books and empty walls.  The very first fundraiser was a pie and ice cream social.  It was a humble beginning but the community turned out.  The volunteers of the foundation worked hard for the next five years providing educational events as well as constantly improving the selection of resources available to the public.  Trying to keep the library afloat, the original purpose of the foundation, the restoration of the original school, fell by the wayside due to lack of funds.  The building continued to deteriorate. 

 

In 2007, having weathered through the first few years of starting the library and feeling it take root, the foundation finally began to feel they were in a position to begin thinking about the old schoolhouse.  After years of sitting empty without proper care, the inside of the building was in terrible shape and in need of being completely stripped and redone. With the skilled advice of some committed volunteers, the planning began to find a way to finance the restoration of the school into a community building.  Attempts at grants were made but without success.  Finally, in the early spring of 2008, the idea to follow the history of the campus resurfaced: provide the money for the supplies and ask the community to provide the labor. 

 

On July 11th, with the support of Cayuse Prairie, the Mountain Brook Homestead Foundation sent forth their appeal for help and work began.  Unfortunately, the turnout was not as it had been in the past.  A few dedicated volunteers showed and accomplished astonishing progress removing sheetrock, plaster, ceiling tiles, carpet, and sawdust insulation.  In August, the foundation hired Ray Mallory & Sons to replace the leaking metal roof with brand new galvanized steel.  A support beam donated by Western Building Center of Columbia Falls was installed to fix sways in the roof.  Two steel supports donated by Pacific Steel were put in the arch that divides the two main rooms to repair structural issues.   The dream was on its way...

 

 

 - Today -

 

Work on stripping the interior is still continuing at the school every Wednesday from 6pm-8pm.  The two main rooms are nearly finished and all that remains is a small storage room and the bathrooms located in what used to be the teacherage.   

 

Still to come will be the replacing of the wiring, plumbing, windows, and doors as well as deciding on a cost effective way to heat the building.  There is much work to be done.  We anticipate the project to take us at least two years to complete.  And yet, the history of this building through the years proves that anything can be accomplished if the community stands together with the intention to succeed. 

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