The designation would allow the Valley School to get federal grants.
The Valley School’s status as one the oldest one-room schools still in existence in Washington County was sufficient to justify landmark status, a new report has found, clearing another hurdle in a preservation group’s efforts to have the site listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Denmark Historical Society hired consultants from Landscape Research, LLC, a St. Paul-based historical survey firm, to do a “historic structures study,” a crucial first step in the nomination process. The firm presented its findings Tuesday at a meeting attended by about two dozen people at Denmark Township Town Hall.
Federal preservation officials will make the final decision on the site’s nomination, but local preservationists see this largely as a formality after receiving approval from the Minnesota Historical Society.
The one-classroom school, perched on a wooded bluff overlooking the St. Croix River, was built in 1852 on the site of a log school that had burned to the ground two years before. For 94 years, it functioned as a school and community meeting place before being taken over by the Point Douglas Woman’s Club.
The schoolhouse was later sold to a local family, which in turn sold it to the Denmark Township Historical Society last year for $80,000.
Mavis Voigt, a board member of the Denmark Township Historical Society, said the school is one of the last remaining buildings in the ghost town of Point Douglas, a once-thriving lumber village situated where the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers meet.
“Out of what used to be 76 school districts, there are 27 of these schools left. Most of them have been moved or have been converted into homes. This is the one of the ones that are left that has integrity left,” Voigt said.
“The siding on the outside still has some graffiti carving that the schoolchildren put in there. And the inside has the tin ceiling and tin siding.”
The historical society bought the property in January 2012 after months of fundraising efforts, which included bake sales and arranging $7,800 in grants from foundations.
“Our next step is we have to talk to an architectural firm that are experts in working with these historic properties and lay out in detail what needs to be done,” Voigt said.
Being designated a historical landmark would make the school eligible for federal grants, which would be used to restore the structure to how it looked a century ago and turn it into a visitors center.
With no timetable for a final decision, “it’s a matter of waiting,” said Voigt’s husband, Bob, who is also heavily involved in the preservation efforts. “There’s nothing that can be done to hurry up the process.”
Libor Jany • 651-925-5033