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10/24/2013 Major restoration underway at historic Willows School
The historical Willows Schoolhouse, a one room country school built in 1889, is almost finished with its restoration. Located six and a half miles southwest of Westcliffe, Willows used to be the community’s meeting place. "It was used for everything," said John Brandenburg of the Custer County Genealogical and Historical Society. "People held funerals, dances and elections here." Brandenburg himself holds personal ties to the building. His father attended school there, and part of the restoration is based on Brandenburg’s memories of how it used to look. The schoolhouse had always been a focal point in the district until schools were consolidated in 1948 countywide. After that, people stopped coming and Mother Nature took her toll. "Mother Nature is hard on structures in the valley," said Bob Fulton from Back Again Restorations. "To keep buildings up, people should be painting every three years. That is something we will have to do for the schoolhouse to keep it in shape." The Historic Willow School received a grant in 2009 from the Colorado Historical Fund. So far the restoration has included upgrading the electrical system, adding a back door for fire escape and handicap access, and removing the concrete porch that was not part of the original design. "We will put in a six foot wide wooden porch in its place," Fulton explained. "We will also work on the drainage to keep water away from the building." "The big thing when we restore," Brandenburg said, "is to help make it last longer. It will look like it did when it was built when we are finished in the next few weeks." When the historical site is finished being renovated, it will be open to the public for weddings, meetings and other events or activities. Fulton and Brandenburg stood back and took in the white-painted schoolhouse. "The old girl needed to be saved," Fulton said. "We’re saving a landmark." -J.E.Ward