It was two years ago this month that a pair of ice-laden oak trees uprooted themselves and smashed through the roof of the historic 1879 Mark Prairie Schoolhouse near Canby, dealing a near-crippling blow to one of the area’s last remaining one-room schoolhouses.
But now, after three months of work by the contractors for the all-volunteer Mark Prairie Historical Society have enclosed the historic building with rebuilt walls and a new roof. Mark Prairie officials also reported this week that volunteers have raised half of the needed $200,000 for repairs, in addition to insurance funds.
Despite initially stabilizing the collapsed roof and leaning walls, the original contractor made little progress, allowing wind and rain to cause further deterioration, volunteers reported.
After 16 months, the historical society brought together a new team of Emerick Construction, Froelich Engineers, and Jeff Erwin, architect with OrangeWall Studios, who have made dramatic progress in repairing the wooden structure.
This Clackamas County historic landmark now sports hand-built trusses to fill the gaping hole, creating a roofline indistinguishable from the original, and composition shingles that mimic the original cedar shingles that once clad the roof. Custom-milled siding, interior tongue-and-groove paneling, and period moldings match the 1879 profiles of the original materials.
“After the devastating ice storm and a harrowing year-and-a-half, we are so fortunate to have found these corporate partners who are willing to collaborate with our small organization to prioritize saving this cherished country school,” said Peggy Sigler, a member of Mark Prairie Historical Society and the restoration’s volunteer project manager.
“It’s such a relief to have the building protected from the elements and know that all partners are ready to move on to phase two. Plans have been submitted to the county to finish the interior and add upgrades like an ADA restroom; having Emerick Construction at the helm has been invaluable.”
The progress to date has been made possible by generous private donations, fundraising events held by volunteers, and much-appreciated grants from the Kinsman Foundation, Helen E. Austin Pioneer Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation, Lee H. & Marion B. Thompson Foundation, Clackamas County Cultural Coalition, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and DirectLink.
“In 1879, when the school was built with square nails and lumber milled nearby, building codes didn’t exist,” Sigler said. “So, along with today’s volatile construction costs and maintaining the building’s historic character, meeting current structural, seismic, and ADA codes has made for big, expensive hurdles.”
“With costs more than triple that which we were initially quoted, we’ve really had to step up our fundraising efforts,” agreed Judi Hester Aus, Historical Society president and a Mark family descendant. “It has been a heroic effort by volunteers, especially the six-member board; and for Peggy, it is a full-time, unpaid, labor of love. We couldn’t do this without her.”
The estimated date for completing the project is August 2023. In that short time, the historical society needs to raise an additional $100,000 and is seeking personal, corporate, and in-kind donations to augment their continued grant-writing efforts.
Additionally, volunteers are still the backbone of the restoration project and help is wanted for on-site projects, grant writing, administrative tasks, professional services, historical research, and people to serve on a committee that will create a business plan to sustain the newly-restored building into the future.
Once complete, the Mark Prairie Schoolhouse and its pristine two-acre oak grove will again serve the community as a meeting and gathering place and will be available for private events, as it has been since 1946 when Mark Prairie School consolidated with Canby schools.
Learn more about the Mark Prairie Schoolhouse, become a member, and make donations online at markprairiehistoricalsociety.org.
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