Fly Gulch Schoolhouse reopens for living history lessons |

Fly Gulch Schoolhouse reopens for living history lessons

Fourth graders Kendall Gibson (cowgirl hat), Chloe Hobson (miner's helmet), Finley Danielson (white bonnet) and first grader Emerald Weber (blue bonnet) celebrated the re-opening of the historic Fly Gulch Schoolhouse on the campus of Strawberry Park Elementary School May 26.
Tom Ross

One-room schoolhouses persisted into the 1960s in rural Routt County, and scores of 21st century elementary school students in Steamboat Springs celebrated their heritage May 26 with a living history lesson in the newly refurbished Fly Gulch Schoolhouse on the Strawberry Park campus.

There were folk songs led by music teacher Kayli Daymon on guitar, traditional dances and a spelling bee conducted by storyteller Marianne Capra.  The students also admired the new history timeline, which was built for them by Steamboat Springs High School students, that wraps the inside of the 1917 schoolhouse.

Many of the elementary school students dressed as coal miners, cowboys, Native Americans and of course, pioneer teachers in long skirts and bonnets.

“This is just the beginning for us,” said Title 1 teacher Anna White, who worked for several years along with fifth grade teacher Lisa Adams on pursuing grants and putting the two Fly Gulch school buildings back in habitable shape.

The regular school curriculum includes local history lessons — third graders study Routt County history and fourth graders study Colorado history, for example.

But in 2017, they have new tools at their disposal. Some students have been using school iPads to record oral histories with longtime locals, and others are conducting video interviews with people who know the lore of the Yampa Valley.

The hope is that succeeding generations of students will add new history projects to the timeline in the old school building.

Tread of Pioneers Museum assistant Tamra Monahan was helping to host Friday’s event.

“Having the schools here is an amazing and it’s a plus for the children to experience them first hand,” Monahan said.

Steamboat storyteller Marianne Capra, who is able to adopt the personality of a number of local historical figures, like Charlotte Perry, co-founder of Perry Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp in Strawberry Park, was conducting the spelling bee Friday with fourth graders teaming up to help first graders.

The Fly Gulch Schoolhouse, named after the pioneer Fly family, was moved to Strawberry Park in 1992 by a group of enthusiastic teachers and  community members. But after years of damage caused by moisture and mold, the two buildings had become unusable.

White and Adams took on the job, which they first thought would involve some sprucing up  and fresh paint, but it soon became apparent they would need grant funding.

The district received an $8,750 State Historical Fund grant to complete a historic structure assessment and then secured a $33,500 state development grant to use for construction, drainage work, sealing and ventilating the building’s crawl space and mitigating mold inside.

Additional contributions for the restoration project came from Lowe’s Toolbox for Education, Routt County Museum and Heritage Fund Advisory Board, Legacy Education Fund, Strawberry Park Elementary Student Council and private donations. SmartWool employees also volunteered to paint the building’s interior.

According to documents on file at the Routt County Courthouse, the first Fly Gulch School was a log cabin near what is Routt County Road 44A. Originally known as Trull, the Fly Gulch District combined Deep Creek District 7 and Moon Hill District 10 in the late 1800s.

The frame building that is now on the Strawberry Park campus first opened in the summer of 1917 with Miss Flora Smith serving as the teacher. It wasn’t until almost 1940 that classes began for the year in the autumn, likely because of upgraded roads.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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