Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Elmira Schoolhouse

View of Elmira Schoolhouse From My House
Working on the Railroad in Elmira
A Ghost Town
View of Elmira Schoolhouse From Across the Tracks
Wood Shed in Old Elmira?
Nope! The Original Elmira Schoolhouse!
Tucked on a knoll above my north pasture is a cement block schoolhouse built in 1910. Its south windows face my house, and if its front doors were still open to children I'd have kids scrambling across my place at recess.

The Second Elmira Schoolhouse
The property includes three operational outhouses. Not that I've used them, but I have peeked into the doors. One for boys, one for girls and one for Teacher. Yes, Teacher deserved her own. The student privies are double-seaters. So much for privacy!

Elmira was once a railroad town. While my research is incomplete, two major railroads built through this valley and its mountain passes around the mid-1860s. By 1900, Elmira employed a sizable group of Italian immigrants to maintain the tracks.

This valley is framed by three mountain ranges--the Cabinets, Purcells and Selkirks is called the McArthur Corridor. It is a natural pass and a perfect launching point for railroad crews.

The railroad companies created a stop-over here to house workers, equipment and supplies. To this very day (because I saw a BNSF crew pass earlier this morning) this area remains a hub for railroad crews. No longer do they live here in homes between tracks; crews bus to hotels 15 miles south in Sandpoint.

Elmira is a ghost town, no longer a point on a map. Only a few houses remain--my place was actually a ranch and at one time a rollicking inn that passed out moonshine. A sign marks the establishment of the official town-site as 1909, just one year before the stone schoolhouse was erected. It's across the tracks.

In fact, if you look at the Elmira Schoolhouse from that vantage point across the tracks you will find a collection of abandoned buildings typical to a ghost town. Made of wood, they resemble sheds if anything. Yet, the town housed families before 1909. So there was actually an original school.

After researching local records at the Bonners Ferry Museum, I've been able to identify one of these shed-like structures as the original schoolhouse. Somewhere in this cluster is what remains of the original teacher's house, outhouses, post office and yes, a wood shed.

So next door is the second schoolhouse. Abandoned after WWII, historians say that many of these one-room schoolhouse were often moved or dismantled. To have two originals in a town that no longer exists is unusual.

I must live among well-schooled ghosts!

16 comments:

  1. I love this history lesson. What a wonderful place (in my opinion). I love when I am on a country drive and I pass an old school house. You are right, having two original school houses in the same area is rare. Rare and wonderful.

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    1. They are such statements of hope for the future. I like seeing them, too and love having this place next door!

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  2. How cool! I would love to see the inside of this school. So much history in those walls I bet :)

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    1. I know! I should try to snap some photos through the window...and of the outhouses, too! Lots of stories in those walls!

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    2. I have been in and played in the school house and in the teachers house my fathers friend owns or used to own it I would love to go metal detecting on the property but we lost touch with the friend and don't know the standing with the bank and what not!

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    3. I have been in and played in the school house and in the teachers house my fathers friend owns or used to own it I would love to go metal detecting on the property but we lost touch with the friend and don't know the standing with the bank and what not!

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  3. What a fascinating story (history) of the place where you live!

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  4. It is--of course, I think all places have lingering histories worth getting to know. :-)

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  5. Wow, Charli. Elmira sounds dreamy to me! I've never seen towns such as yours but I have heard about them. Someday, I would love to drive cross-country and feed my curious heart.
    I loved getting to know your little town and seeing the original schoolhouse. Watch out for them well-schooled ghosts!

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    1. If you ever get the urge to see the west, I have a guest room for writers. The ghosts, being well-school, also seem to be well-mannered! :-)

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  6. What a treasure to have that piece of educational history right outside your door! I can envision you writing the recess stories of all those children running around nearby. (Telling stories out of school, there you go!)

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    1. Great idea, Ruthi! It is a beautiful building to have next door. Well-behaved ghosts!

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  7. Hi! I was just googling and found your blog. I live on Elmira Rd. and was devastated that they tore down the old schoolhouse. How on earth did that happen? ??

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    1. Hi Neighbor! Ah, I was heartbroken when I wrote an article for a magazine and popped over there for photos. I tried to convince myself I was wrong, that they didn't raze the schoolhouse just another building...but they did tear it down, didn't they? It was on private property and had no protective status. For that matter, neither does the 1910 building. I'd love to make that schoolhouse a property into a community center.

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    2. The original schoolhouse was dismantled, but was not destroyed. It is fully restored as a vacation cabin about four miles from its original location. I am the one that dismantled it and restored it on my property. I would love to post pictures if I knew how.

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  8. Hi charli! Sorry I missed this response. Yes it would be so great for that building to be turned into something cool!!!! XOXO

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