Dean Kahn

Ferndale group hopes to save little red schoolhouse

Alcoa Intalco Works engineer Travis Linds, left, and public relations manager Raina Clark talk to Ferndale Heritage Society members Bonnie Wiesen and Linda Harkleroad on Thursday, June 25, 2015. Society members are raising money to move the 99-year-old West Mountain View School building and library from Intalco’s property to Pioneer Park in Ferndale.
Alcoa Intalco Works engineer Travis Linds, left, and public relations manager Raina Clark talk to Ferndale Heritage Society members Bonnie Wiesen and Linda Harkleroad on Thursday, June 25, 2015. Society members are raising money to move the 99-year-old West Mountain View School building and library from Intalco’s property to Pioneer Park in Ferndale. The Bellingham Herald

Members of Ferndale Heritage Society hope to raise enough money to save a 99-year-old school building that also served as an early library branch and as a community club in the Mountain View area west of Ferndale.

The society wants to move the building from its long-term temporary location at Alcoa Intalco Works to Pioneer Park, where the society oversees a cluster of other historic buildings, most of them log cabins. The former West Mountain View School and library building isn’t built of logs, but it’s historic and it would provide needed space for a children’s exhibit at the park, said Linda Harkleroad, the society’s vice president.

“We want to set it up as a hands-on children’s museum,” she said.

The society has about $15,000 of the estimated $45,000 it will cost to move the building and place it atop a new foundation near the barn at Pioneer Park. That’s a hefty price tag for the small nonprofit organization, so members are pondering fundraising ideas as well as asking the public for donations.

The building was moved to Intalco’s Totem Terrace recreation area for safekeeping in the early 1990s after the branch library was closed. Intalco reroofed the building and placed it on a foundation with holes so beams could be inserted to lift and move it later, said Bonnie Wiesen, a Heritage Society board member and a former county librarian who has researched the building’s history.

Intalco used to store tables and other supplies in the building, but it’s now empty and it again needs a new roof and other upgrades, so Intalco isn’t interested in keeping the building long term, Wiesen said.

“I can see their point,” she said. “You don’t want a derelict building in their play area.”

Raina Clark, a public relations spokeswoman at Intalco, said she wasn’t aware of a firm deadline to move the building but said the structure doesn’t fit Intalco’s future.

“We don’t use it for anything,” she said. “We do very much want the building to get to the Heritage Society.”

Harkleroad, who is retired from the environmental affairs department at Intalco, said weather is a big reason for the fundraising push.

“You’ve got to move that thing in the summer months, when the ground is dry,” she said.

Began as teacher’s cottage

The school building was constructed in 1916 as a teacher’s cottage for the West Mountain View School, according to Wiesen’s research. Such cottages were built to attract teachers who didn’t want to share room and board with the various families whose children attended a school.

The first teacher stayed, and married, in the cottage the first term, but after that the building housed students in the primary grades. The building was part of a West Mountain View School complex at the intersection of Lake Terrell and Douglas roads, joined by a three-classroom main school, a gymnasium, an outhouse, a stable and a wood shed.

In 1945, the building and a school in Deming became the Whatcom County Library System’s first two branch libraries, Wiesen said. The part-time branch at Mountain View operated through 1989, overlapping with the last two years of the building’s use as a school.

After Mountain View School District was absorbed into Ferndale School District in the late 1940s, the larger school building and gymnasium were sold for lumber, but the smaller school building survived as the Mountain View Community Hall.

The hall, which continued to house the branch library and other community uses, was the target of an early-morning arson in 1982 but escaped full destruction and was rebuilt by volunteers.

“Luckily, someone else was coming along the road at 3 o’clock in the morning and called the fire department,” Wiesen said.

Harkleroad said if the building is moved to Pioneer Park, it could hold a collection of history books in the space once used for the small branch library. The building also could display pioneer-theme murals and exhibits saved from a now-closed children’s museum in Bellingham.

“We have a great need for that building,” she said.

Reach Dean Kahn at 360-715-2291 or dean.kahn@bellinghamherald.com. Read his columns at bellinghamherald.com/dean-kahn.

To help

▪ To help Ferndale Heritage Society move the West Mountain View School building to Pioneer Park, make a check payable to the society and send it to: P.O. Box 3127, Ferndale, WA 98248, or give to the “Ferndale Heritage Society Schoolhouse Donation Account” at Banner Bank.

▪ People with stories, photographs or artifacts related to the school building are encouraged to contact the society at 360-384-6461 or park@ferndaleheritagesociety.com.

▪ Details about the society and Pioneer Park can be found at ferndaleheritagesociety.com.

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