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Historical Perspectives

A trip back in time

Ever wanted to time travel? Step into the Black Forest Log School at the intersection of Shoup Road and Black Forest Road for a refreshing trip back to the 1920s.Before the Black Forest School was built, students in the Black Forest area attended Forest View School just north of Woodmen Road near the present-day Kit Carson Riding Club. It was a long distance for children to travel by horseback, wagon or foot in an area with unpredictable weather.In 1920, Black Forest resident Cort Burgess led a campaign to build a new school so children wouldn’t have to travel so far. Although the election was hotly contested, voters approved the idea.A lumber company donated the land, and the people of Black Forest provided the labor to build a plain, sturdy one-room schoolhouse out of logs. At the time, schools were being built everywhere in El Paso County, where there were enough children to attend.In addition to the Forest View School and the Black Forest School, there were three schools north of Hodgen Road, a school at the south end of Vollmer Road, three schools east of Meridian Road and a school near the present-day intersection of Northgate Road and Highway 83.When the Black Forest School opened in 1922, Ruth Maddox taught grades one through eight in a single 625 square-foot room.A few years later, the school got a coal bin and a foundation, and a cloakroom was added to the front entrance.Mildred Shiflet taught from 1927 to 1929. On her first day, her youthful appearance led students and parents to assume she was a student. In what must have been an awkward moment, they asked her if she knew when the teacher would arrive.Shiflet boarded with the Tevebaugh family and shared a room with one of her students, Delia James, who worked for the Tevebaugh family.She left the school to further her education at Colorado State Teachers College in Greeley, Colo. Seven years later she married Paul Pickard.Edith Wolford, for whom Edith Wolford Elementary School was named, started teaching at the Black Forest School in 1936. She was still teaching there in 1945 when a consolidation with the Falcon School District caused the Black Forest School to close. Its students were bused to schools in Falcon.The schoolhouse and land were sold at auction and bought by Gertrude Burgess.Two years later, El Paso County bought the property from the Burgess family and converted the schoolhouse into a residence for Pearl Roe, a county road worker, and his family.The conversion included the construction of interior walls to create a kitchen, living area and two bedrooms. Part of the cloakroom became a bathroom.The property was big enough for Roe to park road maintenance equipment along the side of the former schoolhouse.After Roe’s death in 1975, Everett Weber (also a road worker for the county) moved into the former schoolhouse.In 1981, the county built a new road maintenance yard and no longer needed the schoolhouse, which then stood unused and empty for nearly 20 years.Some hoped the former schoolhouse would become a branch library – an idea that prompted the county to give the building to the Pikes Peak Library District in 1983.The library district decided the building was unsuitable for a branch library and eventually transferred ownership to the Black Forest Fire and Rescue District, which had built its first fire station on the same corner.In 1990, former students and other volunteers filed paperwork to place the schoolhouse on the National Register of Historic Places. Their efforts paid off in 1992; and, as part of the register the schoolhouse became eligible for restoration grants.Volunteers formed the “Friends of the Black Forest Log School” committee to raise money and apply for matching grants from the Colorado Historical FundFirst on the list of overdue repairs: a new roof, which was put on in 1996. The next year, a crane lifted the schoolhouse off its crumbling foundation so a new foundation could be built.The interior was next.When the school was used as a house, linoleum was glued to the wood floors and wallboard was installed over the original bead board paneling. Taking down the wallboard was easy, but getting the linoleum up was one of the more challenging tasks, said Carrie Robertson, member of the restoration committee.Restoration was completed in 2000, and alumni returned to share their memories of the Black Forest School.Today, the schoolhouse is filled with wooden desks, an oak teacher’s desk (complete with a faux apple), an upright piano, a coal-burning stove and a church pew – none original to the school, but all donated by Black Forest residents.A flag with 48 stars and a map with 48 states hang from the wall – just as they would have in the 1930s – and kerosene lamps dangle from the ceiling.Behind the teacher’s desk is a real chalkboard, and the alphabet, which was written in cursive (on its way to becoming a lost skill), is posted above.A game of Chinese checkers sits on a shelf along with vintage dolls – beneath pictures of Shiflet and Wolford.Robertson enjoys giving school children a tour of the old schoolhouse, demonstrating how water was pumped by hand from the well outside and how teachers had to arrive early to start up the coal-burning stove on winter days.The school, located at 6770 Shoup Road, is open to the public on Thursdays from noon to 3 p.m. through Aug. 11 and from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Aug. 13, the day of the Black Forest Festival.Group tours can be scheduled at any time of the year by calling 495-3017, 495-2011 or 495-4021. Story time is available for primary-age children upon request by calling 495-3017.

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