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Springdale School nominated to join national history register

by: Contributed photo The Springdale Grade School after its remodel in 1926.

For nearly 80 years, the Springdale School educated generations of students and served as a venue for community events in the rural Springdale community.

The pink single-story Art Deco building, constructed by local community members in the summer 1931, also serves as a visual landmark for visitors passing by on the Historic Columbia River Highway.

Even after it closed as a school in 1996, the Springdale School continued to operate as a community center. Less than a year ago, it held an art gallery and framing shop and provided space for Boy Scouts, a historical society, a ladies tea group and a children's theater.

But the Corbett School District, which owns the building, had to vacate it in December 2010 because it didn't meet Multnomah County building code requirements mostly related to safety issues. The groups that once used the building had to find space elsewhere; the school is now being used for very limited storage of school supplies.

However, the school may finally join a national listing of the country's most historically significant buildings, sites, districts and objects - a designation that could also qualify it for some much-needed funding.

On Friday, June 10, the State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation, a nine-member advisory board for Oregon's State Historic Preservation Office, unanimously approved the Springdale School's application to be added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The application now will be sent to Washington, D.C., where the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places has 45 days to decide whether to add the Springdale School to the register or not.

If approved, the Springdale School would join a list of more than 1,800 historic properties in Oregon. The list includes several East County properties such as McMenamins Edgefield, Vista House, the Multnomah Falls Lodge, Gresham Carnegie Library, Harlow House, the Jacob Zimmerman House and the View Point Inn.

Corbett School District Superintendent Randy Trani said the building has to be brought up to code as a school before the district can reopen and use it. If it's listed on the National Register, the school would be eligible for state, federal and private grants that benefit historic properties, he said.

'The hope is that if it's listed, it will help with funding somewhere down the line,' Trani said.

Although a listing on the National Register also qualifies historic properties for federal and state tax benefits, Trani said the Springdale School would not be eligible since school districts don't have to pay property taxes.

Gary Law, board member and former president of the Springdale School Community Association, attended the meeting in Salem and said the committee acknowledged the historic significance of the school.

One committee member, Law said, noted that he didn't want the school to share the same fate as the old Corbett Grade School building, which burned down in 2001.

'We're very happy for the school building,' Law said, noting that the association hired historic preservation consultant Patience Stuart less than a year ago to work on the application. Stuart wrote that although renovations and additions have occurred throughout the history of the Springdale School, the integrity of the original 1931 building is apparent.

Law said the association will work with the school district in applying for grants, which could help in getting the building up to code and opened again.

The school district also sent out a request for proposals for an architectural analysis, which estimates what it would cost to get the building up to code and how the school could alter the building for different uses.

On Monday, June 13, school officials met with representatives from four local architectural firms to tour the Springdale School. Trani said the firms will submit their proposals for the architectural analysis next week. The school board will review the proposals at its July meeting.

Several safety issues with the building will need to be addressed. Law said the building needs overhead sprinklers and a center railing for the entry stairs, the bathrooms need to be upgraded to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and the auditorium needs new ceiling tiles. The building may also not be up to seismic standards, he said.

Law said the county gave the school and community an exemption to the regulations requiring paved parking, which would have been very expensive for the school.

Trani said the district would like to utilize the building, which has not held classes since 1996. He said the building contains an auditorium and six classrooms, with extra space that could be converted into classrooms. He said the district would also like to tie in some community use in the future.

Law, who was the third-generation of his family to attend the school, said he would like to see it reopen to students again, noting that it was a good place to go to school.

Trani said the district supports adding the Springdale School to the National Register of Historic Places.

'I think it gives the school more hope, more support,' Trani said. 'It's a cool building and it would be great if we could save it.'