The Canby School District has located a “serious buyer” interested in acquiring and relocating the old Carus Schoolhouse, known as the White Building — which would save the historic structure from demolition.
The district has been working for over a year to find a buyer for the historic schoolhouse located on the grounds of Carus Elementary School at the corner of Carus Road and Highway 213.
The asking price ($1) was likely not the sticking point, but rather, the requirement that any buyer would have to assume the costs of removing and relocating the structure by March 2023.
The project is part of planned work at the Carus Elementary School campus made possible through the $75 million capital improvement bond the district’s voters approved in May 2020.
“Our plan is to do our part to improve safety at Carus Elementary by getting cars off the road at pick-up time and by adding parking spaces so people no longer have to walk across the busy highway from the overflow parking lot,” District Communications Coordinator Kristen Wohlers explained in an email.
“That’s especially important for after-school activities and events that take place when it’s dark! Moving the White Building from its location provides the space for us to make these improvements.”
The two-story, 4,720-square-foot Craftsman-style building has served the Carus area as a schoolhouse, meeting hall, community center and Sunday school for the Methodist Church over the decades. It was used as a school until the 1970s, and as administrative offices until the early 2000s.
The building’s location on the site and separation from the main school building prevents it from meeting safety, ADA, seismic and other requirements for a public school.
No longer in use, the White Building remains a beloved historical landmark, and last year’s news that it might be torn down was met with dismay by local readers.
“We have great respect for its history and place value on the building because of that rich history,” Wohlers said.
“That’s why we have been working with the Clackamas County Historic Review Board along the way, and that’s why, despite deadlines to use bond monies, we have delayed this project for more than a year in search of a buyer who is willing to relocate the schoolhouse.”
Wohlers said she could not provide the name of the potential buyer or their intentions until a deal is finalized, but did say their plan would be to move the building just a few miles away.
“The buyer has a permit to allow the building to be moved to their property and has hired an architect and movers,” she said. “This architect previously served on the Historic Review Board and has an interest in preserving the White Building.
“We feel this is a perfect match, and we are so excited to have the best of both worlds — being able to create space for safety improvements at Carus Elementary School and to preserve the White Building.”
While the news is good, the historic schoolhouse is not out of the woods just yet. If the current sale were to fall through and no other buyer could be located, Wohlers said the district would be forced to move forward with its demolition plans as a last resort.
“We are so hopeful this would not need to happen, but we still need to take steps to prepare for that option,” she said.
“Again, we’ve been working with the Historic Review Board, which has approved our application to move the building from the property but not to tear it down. We will continue to meet with and work with the board on the future of the White Building.”
The Clackamas County Historic Review Board met last month to consider the district’s plans for the building, ultimately approving the request to move the structure, but not to demolish it.
The board also gave a 60-day extension to review community interest and support for the building, which was approved by the county. The next meeting of the Historic Review Board is scheduled for 7 p.m. January 12. For information about attending or submitting public comment, visit the county’s website.
Deeded to Clackamas School District No. 29 in 1885 by Isaac and Constance Farr, the White Building was one of only two schools in the Oregon City/Beavercreek area that dates to the Motor Age and was noted for the high quality of its design and construction — which was unusual for non-residential properties built in that period.
It includes lap siding, exposed rafters, purlins and brackets, wood double-hung windows, a gabled porch with enclosed balustrade and decorative truss, and a main entry paneled with transom and sidelights.
It was left vacant in 2005, and the front entry was gated off and the rear staircase was removed in 2018. The White Building is on the list of designated historical sites for both the state and Clackamas County.
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