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Foundation seeks to save part of history with schoolhouse
History, albeit overrun and lacking care at the moment, intersects at Pass and West Butte roads.
Built in 1909, a white schoolhouse is the lone remnant of the once-thriving town of West Butte.
Mike Hubbartt, Alison Allread Cannada and Paul Boehmke looked past its shortcomings on Wednesday morning, envisioning a community museum, meeting space and interpretive historical center.
The three are spearheading new efforts to transform the property the Middle Mountain Foundation received in 2005.
Hubbartt, on the foundation's board of directors, foresees a return to how the building looked until 1944, when its days as a schoolhouse ended and transformed into more than 50 years as a residence.
"We see it as an old classroom about as it looked 80 years ago," he said, emphasizing the Middle Mountain Foundation can't do it alone.
Photographs, volunteers, donations and accounts of the school or the town would advance the project.
"There are probably just a handful of people in the community ... that would have any firsthand memory of this," Hubbartt said.
Community Memorial Museum of Sutter County curator Julie Stark, who also serves on Middle Mountain's subcommittee, agreed with Hubbartt's assessment that community involved and education is critical to the project's success.
There were once about 50 schoolhouses in Sutter County, and Stark said she only knows of two that remain standing — West Butte and Slough.
"If we don't save this, we've really lost this part of our history," she said.
For Cannada, who chairs the committee, the building is much more personal.
The daughter of an almond farmer, Gary Allread, Cannada lived in the home from age 2 to 15 after the family moved there in the late 1970s.
"All the sounds are the same," she said on Wednesday morning. She reminisced of the children climbing to the bell tower crawl space, the fence and porch that her father built and the rock pile in the yard. "Everybody wants it saved. Everyone in my family's excited of the prospect of Middle Mountain coming in and saving the day," she said.
Thus far, Hubbartt and Cannada said, community presentations and making connections are starting to pay dividends. Recently at a church meeting, Cannada said, someone suggested they could donate an old trailer so the property would have a place for a caretaker to stay.
On the arts scene, Sutter resident and artist Paul Boehmke hopes to organize a Sutter Buttes arts show to spur interest in the schoolhouse and other historical features.
Boehmke snapped some photos and painted a rendition of the school several years ago, before he realized there was an ongoing effort to save the property.
Those interested in helping with the project can email the subcommittee at firstname.lastname@example.org.