Tread of Pioneers hosts open houses at historic Mesa Schoolhouse
Before students could ride the bus to school at the Steamboat Springs School District, Routt County children attended one of 96 schools. Most were one-room schoolhouses or classrooms in someone’s home, and the children rode a horse or walked to their school.
Now, with six schools in the local district, such a lifestyle is distant, even foreign, to current students.
In an effort to reconnect the present generation with the schoolhouse generation of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Tread of Pioneers Museum is hosting five open house events throughout the summer at the historic Mesa Schoolhouse south of Steamboat.
“Mesa is one of the three publicly owned school houses in Routt, but the only one that the public can regularly go into,” Tread of the Pioneers Museum Director Candice Bannister said. “Through these open houses, we want to bring the voices of the teachers and the students, the school’s collections and the archives to the public.”
At the open houses, museum staff will dress in historic attire to give tours of the school, talk about its history and simulate student-teacher life with pioneer toys and recess games. Visitors will also have access to photographs, oral history interviews and artifacts from the original building.
The open houses, which are co-sponsored by Historic Routt County and the city of Steamboat Springs, will be held from noon to 2 p.m. June 17 and July 30, from 1 to 3 p.m. June 30 and July 18 and from 2 to 4 p.m. Aug. 14.
The Mesa Schoolhouse was built in 1890, 14 years after the first school session in Routt County.
“In the early days, the county was really large with ranches spread out all over,” Bannister said. “Parents weren’t sending their kids an hour to go to school, so the families conglomerated to build a school or start one in a house to make sure their children got educated.”
From 1890 to 1959, the Mesa Schoolhouse served as the school for the children living at the base of Rabbit Ears Pass. It survived through much of the wave of school consolidation until 1959 when it became the last schoolhouse to join the larger Steamboat Springs district.
“Mesa left kicking and screaming, hoping it could hold onto the schoolhouse heritage it represented,” Bannister said.
After years of vacancy, the Brostroms, a family from Denver, purchased Mesa Schoolhouse in 1975 as a vacation home. The family seldom used the house, and it began to languish.
Recognizing the house’s historical importance, Historic Routt County negotiated with the family to purchase, renovate and donate the house to the city of Steamboat Springs in celebration of the city’s centennial in 2000.
“Don Lufkin, who owned the ranch surrounding the schoolhouse and had gone to school there, was crucial in negotiating restoration arrangments,” Historic Routt County member Arianthé Stettner said. “With his help and the help of many others, we got desks, a teacher’s desk and the original school bell and piano. It was a real community effort. Now people love it and are able to visit it seasonally.”
The Mesa Schoolhouse is on both the National and Routt County Register of Historic Places. It is one of 15 schoolhouses still standing in the county.
No RSVP is necessary for the open houses. The school is located at 33985 S. Lincoln Ave., three miles east on U.S. Highway 40 toward Rabbit Ears Pass on the right. For more information, visit treadofpioneers.org.
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