When Bill and Peggy Van Natter decided they wanted their property, the historic North Creek School House, to be preserved for the community’s use, they reached out to the City of Bothell. That was in the early 1990s.
It’s taken over twenty years and a lot of restoration work for their vision to become reality.
To showcase the school restoration’s progress, the city of Bothell will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony and allow visitors to come inside the building during the city’s Arbor Day volunteer planting event at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 5 at Centennial Park, home of the relocated school.
Originally located at 22711 31st Avenue SE, the school building was moved to its new location at Centennial Park, just west of Bothell Everett Highway at 1129 208th St. SE in Bothell in November 2008.
Bothell Parks Board member Bill Moritz suggested using the North Creek School House for the planned interpretive center at the park. At the park, the school could be preserved better than at its original location, where widened roads left no room for property improvements.
Unlike the 1885 Bothell School House located in the Park at Bothell Landing, which has been restored completely as a school house with desks, the North Creek School House will be used as a community center, according to Patricia Parkhurst, recreation and park planning manager for the City of Bothell.
“We’ll run classes here, and we’ll rent it out for meetings for small community groups,” Parkhurst said, adding that she hopes to start offering classes such as lectures and outdoor education at the school this fall. Rentals will begin sometime in 2015 after the Bothell City Council determines and sets rental fees for the building, she added.
Built about 1902, the North Creek School House is a rare intact example of a late 19th to early 20th century one-room school. It is one of only a few remaining in the state of Washington. It has been on the list of local and national historic registries since the 1990s.
The school’s first teacher was Edgar Turner, who later moved on to Woodinville. Another early teacher with a locally famous last name was Charles Beardslee, who came to the area in 1888 from New York. He would fish with students during recess, as the school was located very close to the confluence of North Creek and Pearl Creek.
In its original location, the school was used until 1920 until the local community consolidated the student population by building new schools to handle more students in one location. Bothell High School graduated its first class of seniors in 1911.
After the North Creek School House closed in about 1920, the building continued to be used as a community social center as home to the Canyon Park Community Club, which survived until about 1950. It eventually became a storage facility for the owner at the time.
When the school was moved to Centennial Park in 2008, restoration of the exterior building was completed in time for the park’s grand opening in April 2009. That included installing windows identical to the one remaining intact window.
Many of the interior features remain original, making it an exceptionally well-preserved example of a school building from that era. Small cloakrooms are located on each side of the entrance to the single large room within. A five-inch high platform stands at the front of the room where the teacher’s desk perched over the pupils’ desks. And, almost all of the original wainscoting remains.
While the chalkboards are long gone, the wooden trays for chalk still line the front of the room and part of the back wall. The city plans to install new chalkboards after the interior is repainted.
So far, crews have repaired or replaced rotted boards and moldings, installed a heating system, new lighting, electrical outlets, and a smoke alarm, according to Clark Meek, fleet and facilities manager for the City of Bothell, who is overseeing the restoration project. One of the cloakrooms was converted to house the panels for the electric and heating units.
The biggest job left to do is to paint the interior, which they plan to do sometime in late spring or early summer, according to Parkhurst. The city is seeking volunteers to help with the painting project. The floor also needs to be sanded to remove graffiti that remains from when the building stood empty for many years.
Most of the funding for the school’s relocation and restoration has come from donations. “Money came from citizen donations, the sales of the [Bothell Historic Preservation & Landmark Board’s] ‘Bothell, Washington: Then & Now’ books and the schoolhouse medallions, and a $10,000 grant from the Snohomish County Community Heritage Program,” Parkhurst said.
About $40,000 was raised for the interior restoration, Meek said.
Individual citizens interested in volunteering for the Arbor Day planting event are encouraged to bring their own shovels and gloves. The planting event begins at 10 a.m. and runs until all trees and plants have been planted. Volunteer groups of 10 or more are asked to call ahead at (425) 486-7430.