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Kick up your boot heels at historic North Routt School

Kelsey Sprognardi and longtime Elk River Valley resident Dean Look hit the dance floor recently at Moonhill Schoolhouse in the Elk River Valley.
082014 Moonhill School

If you go

Moonhill School social event

What: Bring a covered dish to share and join traditional Western dance lessons

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: Historic Moonhill Schoolhouse, 50710 Routt County Road 129

Schedule an event: Trenia Semotan Sanford, 970-879-1036

If you go

Talking Green

What: Patrick Eidman, of the Colorado State Historical Fund, and rancher/historian Paul Bonnifield explain why adapting historic buildings to new uses represents sustainability in its truest sense.

When: 5:30 to 7 p.m. Aug. 26

Where: Library Hall at Bud Werner Memorial Library, 1289 Lincoln Ave.

— North Routt resident Trenia Sanford has found a couple of means — one novel and one traditional — to breathe life into the old Moonhill Schoolhouse late this summer.

The one-room school, just this side of Clark, was built in 1913 and educated students through eighth grade. It’s where Sanford’s mother, Jo Semotan, went to school, and where her grandfather Quentin Semotan taught her how to dance.

Moonhill School also was a place where young love blossomed.



“So many people remember, like me, that our fist kisses were there,” Sanford said. “Our first dances were there, and our grandparents taught us to dance there.”

Now, Sanford is collaborating with Routt County Riders to make the school ground, on the right-hand side of Routt County Road 129, a porta-potty break for cyclists along the scenic ride up the Elk River Road. She’s also helping to host monthly covered dish supper dances (come one, come all) in the schoolhouse and ready to rent the facility for other private events.



The next covered dish supper is Saturday night and everyone is invited to come out and learn group dances like the “Cowboy Cha, Cha, Cha,” Sanford said. Another dance is Sept. 27 and one after that will be held Oct. 25.

Keep up with the doings at Moonhill Schoolhouse at its Facebook page.

Sanford’s efforts to reinvigorate Moonhill Schoolhouse dovetails nicely with the upcoming Talking Green program hosted Aug. 26 by the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council, Historic Routt County and the Bud Werner Memorial Library. Speakers will focus on how the adaptive reuse of historic buildings is a sustainable practice and one of the proven ways to protect the buildings.

Historical context

Sanford hopes to add informational signage to the school grounds that will educate cyclists and passing motorists about the history of the valley. It’s also a way to connect the burgeoning cycling community to traditional ways in Routt County, she said.

As recently as 2009, the school was being managed as a community center with its own board of directors. It received a grant and the building is stable, Sanford said. However, mounting costs with a faulty water system caused it to be shuttered.

“Nancy White and her board members did a fantastic job of preserving the school,” Sanford said. “It’s good to go for years. You can have birthday parties, a flea market or small weddings, funerals and christenings there. If you use the outdoor space, you could host more than 50 people.”

Rental rates begin as low as $15 for as many as seven people for up to two hours. Full-day rates are as low as $40 for the smallest groups and as much as $400 for groups of more than 50, which would need to utilize the grounds outside the building, as well.

Although the historic Moonhill School as we know it today was built in 1913, author Jan Leslie reports in her book, “Windows to Yesterday, Routt County Rural Schools, 1883-1960,” the school district in the upper Elk River Valley is even older.

The present school is among the oldest frame schools in the county, but the district formed in 1887, when classes were held in a log cabin.

Whether it’s a log cabin or an early 20th century frame schoolhouse, filling a historic building with happy people is a good way to preserve it.

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


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