Saturday, May 23, 2015

Volunteers save historic building for its history, beauty and functionality

NEARING A CENTURY OLD, COBBLESTONE SCHOOL SHOWS 'CAN DO' SPIRIT IN SMALL MONTANA TOWN

The historic Cobblestone School is nearing a proud century old in its Main Street location in Absarokee, Montana.
The writer of this blog, Christene Meyers, had the pleasure of teaching
a workshop at Cobblestone School just days ago.

Readers and Writers use Cobblestone, along with quilters, dancers and actors.


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

ABSAROKEE, Montana -- WHEN THE Cobblestone School began to show its age, a group of civic minded volunteers decided to save her from the wrecker's ball.
At nearly 80, back in 1996, the historic school was getting long in the tooth, like any dowager who'd led a lively and active life.
The school, begun in 1917 with river rock gathered by the citizens from nearby creeks and fields, was accredited as a high school in 1921 and hired five teachers. The first graduating class had five students. This signaled a giant step forward from the 1903 log cabin and potbelly stove which served the town's first children in the early 20th Century.
Through the years, the stately school was used for myriad community functions -- fitting, since it was built with love by the citizenry's elbow grease, on donated land.
WHEN A NEW high school was built to accommodate a growing student body around 1990, the venerable Cobblestone fell to disuse and could not be sustained.
A plaque commemorates the building's historical status.
Enter "The Fabulous Five." The moniker fits, because the quintet of women, all of Absarokee and rooted deeply in Stillwater County, stepped forward to save the day. "We didn't want it to fade away -- with its history and architecture," said Donna Adams. She, along with Clara Borland, Lois Van Every, Agnes Cowan and Gayle Eberhardt established the non-profit Cobblestone Preservation Committee in June of 1996. They spearheaded a fund-raising drive, including selling bricks to honor contributors and loved ones. A clean-up and fix-up campaign followed. New life was breathed back into the building.
IN 19 YEARS, the building's use has grown to serve a diverse community and regional need.
Quilters are among regular users at Cobblestone School in Absarokee.
Recently, Writer's Voice, a national program sponsored through the National Endowment for the Arts, held a writing workshop there.  The writer of this blog, Christene Meyers, conducted a day-long workshop in a western-style room with lovely hand-crafted pine tables and comfy chairs.
A century ago, architect W. R. Plew, of Montana State University Bozeman, devised plans for the handsome building. He hoped it would be both appealing to the eye and useful to the community.
 HE'D BE pleased with the activity today, which ranges from quilting to Sunday School, Beartooth Park and Recreation District to Absarokee Civic Club and the VFW Auxiliary. Anyone can rent the rooms, too, for nominal fees ranging from $15 and $20 to $150 for the whole building, including kitchen facilities.
Cookie and Keller spent two years reconstructing a novel she abandoned in 2005.
DANCERS LEARN steps there. Yoga, Jazzercise and aerobics take place.  An amateur theater group, The Cobblestone Players, gathers there and presents plays in the largest of the rooms.  Offerings range from light mysteries to comedies and "whodunnits." Banquets and private parties, receptions and more are held.  Call 406 298-0838.

COMING UP: Two fun stories. The Itti Bitti Bistro is sponsoring a Saturday street market and gathering starting this Saturday, May 30. A preview.  And do you believe in epiphany?  We do. When a manuscript, notes and floppy discs fell from a dusty attic box, it hit Keller's head and sparked a great notion.  The next couple years involved editing "Lilian's Last Dance," which I'd co-researched, co-wrote and abandoned when my husband Bill Jones passed away in 2005. More about how the novel came to see light. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekends and Wednesdays at www.whereiscookie.com.


1 comment:

  1. Absarokee Actor WannabeMay 24, 2015 at 8:28 AM

    We donated a brick to this endeavor 15 or so years ago. Proud to have been a part of the resurrection of this architectural gem.
    Have even acted in a couple plays at Cobblestone!!!

    ReplyDelete