Reprinted with permission from The Islands' Weekly: August 5, 2003

Grand Reopening of Historic Port Stanley Schoolhouse

by Leta Currie-Marshall

The Port Stanley Schoolhouse on Lopez, ca. 1917, will have a Grand Reopening this weekend after many long years during which no voices were heard within its walls.

Saturday, August 9th, there will be a special open house for pre-1941 alumni of all Lopez schools, former staff and their families from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. This will give people who have a direct personal history with the school a chance to get together, see the results of the restoration, and catch up on their stories. They will then enjoy an evening potluck and entertainment beginning at 5:00 p.m. at the Lopez Legion Hall.

The public is invited to an open house at the School on Sunday, August 10th, beginning at 11:00 a.m. At 11:30 there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony and presentations to those who have played essential roles in making the restoration happen including volunteers, contractors, and supporters. 

Lopez Historical Society Curator Nancy McCoy said dignitaries from off-island have been invited, such as State Representatives and representatives from the State Historical Preservation Society and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, one of the first grantors of funding.

At least two of the volunteers, Bob Burt and Dick Schoenman, have put in over 600 hours each on the Schoolhouse. Burt acted as volunteer coordinator and working volunteer, Schoenman as electrical designer and then project manager. Many others have given donations of time, skills, and materials.

Looking at a “before” photo of the schoolhouse, McCoy admitted that if they’d known then what they know now, the restoration might never have been attempted, but she is sure it was well worth the effort.
“I am so proud of our tiny organization for what we’ve accomplished,” she said.

Every attempt was made to keep the building as close to its original appearance as possible. Samples were kept of materials that had to be refinished or replaced, and photos documented everything before the work began. Some changes were necessary, like the addition of plumbing and electricity.

McCoy said she has become the “official Salvage Queen” of Lopez, having scrounged and bought old materials like vintage blackboards, light fixtures, and hardware. There was no real written plan for the restoration—“We figured it out as we went along,” she said. Project managers Mitch Hoyt and Schoenman had to follow restoration rules from the Secretary of the Interior. Even the outhouses were designed to match the look of the Schoolhouse.
McCoy also gives much credit to the careful work of the hired craftsmen and their generous extra donations.

“We’re so impressed with the quality of work the contractors did to make it a special place for the community,” she said.

The Port Stanley School is the only Lopez building on the National Register of Historic Places. McCoy wrote the documentation nominating it for inclusion on the Register.

The building and property were donated to the Historical Society in December of 1994 by Chris and Helena Jones, with the stipulation that the building would be saved. The Society accepted the challenge, and the rest is history upon history.