Creswell group works to save history

Last January, a group of Creswell residents came together with a simple mission: To collaborate within the community to enrich the lives of current and future generations by preserving Creswell’s physical and cultural heritage. They call themselves the Creswell Heritage Foundation and they’ve set their sights on their first project. 

“The old school house was built in 1875 as Creswell’s first school,” said Verlean McCoy, foundation president. “It’s the only historic building in Creswell that’s on the National Register of Historic Places.”

The register is the federal accounting of buildings and places deemed worthy of restoration—currently some 80,000 nationwide—and as such, efforts to renovate them must follow strict guidelines. It’s a blessing and a curse for the Heritage Foundation as they move to begin work on the school house. 

“Restoration will be more costly because we’re following the guidelines of the National Register and the place has to be approved by the state preservation office,” McCoy said. 

The group is focusing on the building’s foundation, a project that is estimated to cost $80,000. The entire renovation is expected to cost $250,000—a price tag that has the foundation looking for grants and community help. 

A grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust helped fund the plans for the building’s foundation but the group is now looking towards securing the finances needed to complete architectural drawings.

“We are taking donations,” McCoy said. “But we haven’t embarked on a fundraising campaign yet because we just now finished the study and have an idea of what we need to do. Once we know exactly what to ask for, we’ll start a campaign.” 

McCoy, who volunteered in the building when it was a library, said she got involved in the foundation because of her time spent in the building which has been vacant since 2006. 

The building had been a library since 1927 and when the county attempted to run a county-wide library system in the ‘70s, it adhered to the effort, carrying on as a volunteer library after the county effort failed. But in 2006, the building was closed for good and deeded to the city of Creswell in 1980. It has remained under its ownership since—but that may soon change. 

The Creswell City Council is scheduled to discuss future ownership of the building at its November 27 meeting—one McCoy hopes residents attend as well as a November 17 meeting aimed at educating the community on the foundation’s restoration efforts.

The architect who completed the grant-funded study will be available for questions at the Creswell Community Center on November 17 at 1 p.m. McCoy encourages anyone interested in the project to attend. 

“In the future,” she said,” We definitely will have other projects. We’re focused on this project now but as our mission statement says, we want to protect the physical and cultural heritage of Creswell.” Reportedly, that means next on the list may be a walking tour of the history of Creswell’s buildings. 

For more information or to donate to the Creswell Heritage Foundation, contact McCoy at [email protected] or write to the Creswell Heritage Foundation P.O. Box 1337 Creswell Oregon, 97426.

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