Opinion & Editorial

Preserving Old Schoolhouse links Creswell’s past, present, future

Creswell Public Library and Civic Improvement Club Clubhouse, locally known as the “Old Creswell Schoolhouse,” located on South 2nd Street here in Creswell, is our only community site on the National Historic Register. When I was a Creswell high school girl, I confess, the building had little value in my eyes. It was old, rundown. It smelled of old donated books. The floors sagged. I rarely visited it.
Returning to the area as an adult years later, I sought information on a possible book club in Creswell and that brought me back to the building I had so easily dismissed. The building was much as I remembered it but there was new energy. Volunteers there were considering establishment of a new downtown library for Creswell. I became a member of the committee for a new library and walked door-to-door to encourage community members to vote for a tax increase to establish a new library. And, along the way, I became more and more interested in the old building we would be leaving behind.
The Schoolhouse was built in 1875 by community men, using local timber that was hand sawn and assembled with forged square nails. Local women fed the workers and supported the effort in other ways. The building was originally two-storied and was designed to not only educate children but also to be the center of community activity. Community dinners were held in the building for various celebrations. The local band practiced there. During our two world wars, local women wrapped bandages for wounded warriors who fought for us. Local women donated books from their own homes to create the town’s first library there. The building actively served Creswell for 131 years.
In 2006, a new Creswell Library was established and the old building became a place where bats moved into the attic and stray cats lived in the crawl space below it. A small group of local community members sought and received recognition of the Schoolhouse building as a National Historic Site. A few years later, the “Save the Schoolhouse” Committee formed to address the immediate issues the building was facing. Through local donations, the bats and cats were blocked from entry into the building. Bat guano was hand-removed from the attic. A University of Oregon Architecture class took the Schoolhouse on as a project and mapped out preliminary plans for renovation and costs for such a project. At this time, we ran out of money and energy. Happily, the Creswell Heritage Foundation has recently taken up the challenge.
I tell you this because I want you, like me, to also think about why preserving history is important. We come behind people who pitched in together to build community, who supported each other through wars, who understood the value of walking down the street and always running into a friend. Creswell still has vestiges of these qualities and I think they are important to hold onto. Communities need old buildings to maintain a sense of permanency and heritage. Renovating our Schoolhouse is our last opportunity to connect our past to the present and into the future. A historic site cannot be preserved once it is gone.



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