Steamboat school board discusses selling historic Cow Creek Schoolhouse

The Steamboat Springs School Board is considering options for the future of the Cow Creek Schoolhouse, including the possibility of selling it. (Photo by Scott Franz)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After receiving an inquiry from an interested buyer, the Steamboat Springs School District board decided at its Nov. 5 meeting it’s time to explore the option of selling the Cow Creek Schoolhouse.

The little red building on Routt County Road 43 was built around 1913 and sits on just under 1 acre of property.

“It’s a neat building,” said School Board President Joey Andrew. “It just needs some love.”

The next step is for board members to make a formal proclamation stating the property does not fit the needs of the district now or for the foreseeable future, which they will likely do at their Monday, Nov. 19 meeting.

Superintendent Brad Meeks said someone expresses interest in the schoolhouse about once a year.

The walls in a back room of the Cow Creek Schoolhouse are covered with metal plates that were used to print the Steamboat Pilot dating back to the 1970s. (Photo by Scott Franz)

It has some challenges, said Pascal Ginesta, district facilities manager. For one, the small size of the property isn’t as desirable in a rural area, or can be difficult for residential zoning. It doesn’t have utilities or water, and there is a significant amount of foundation damage, Ginesta said.

“It’s a cool building,” Ginesta said. “But for the most part, it’s just sitting there.”

He checks on it on a regular basis and recently removed some old books.

The board talked about other Routt County schoolhouses that have been converted to residences or community spaces. A couple others were moved to the Strawberry Park campus, where they are used for educational purposes.

From about 1953 until the mid-1990s, Cow Creek was used as a community center, hosting dances, potlucks and, on occasion, some “raucous parties.”

Andrew, whose family homestead is nearby at the intersection of County Roads 35 and 41, has a personal connection to the schoolhouse.

His family was part of the volunteer community that constructed the building, and his great aunt taught there. Andrew’s grandmother taught at the Sidney Schoolhouse on Routt County Road 14. The sisters also ran a portable teacherage, hauling a small hut on a sleigh.

Hundred-year-old textbooks remained inside the schoolhouse in 2012. (Photo by Scott Franz)

Ginesta said the people who expressed interest in buying the schoolhouse intended to fix it up.

Over the past two decades, ownership had been contested, and the property exchanged hands several times before the school district successfully cemented ownership in 2012.

While everyone agreed to prioritize preservation in one form or another, the board debated the pros and cons of putting it under a historic designation.

“But before letting it go, we should look at the historic value,” said former board member Mayling Simpson.

“I’d rather see it used productively,” said board member Katy Lee.

Declaring the district doesn’t need the property does not begin the listing or sale process, Andrew reiterated. It simply allows the conversation to begin about options — whether that be public sector, private sector or donation.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email or follow her on Twitter @KariHarden.

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