Historical New Castle schoolhouse to be restored | PostIndependent.com

Historical New Castle schoolhouse to be restored

Officials with Ambleside School at Skylark pray beside the old scholhose in New Castle on Friday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

An effort to revitalize an iconic, early 20th Century schoolhouse in Old Town New Castle is starting to gain ground.

Ambleside School at Skylark, a private, kindergarten through eighth-grade Christian school in Glenwood Springs, has plans to begin the fall 2021 semester in the old downtown New Castle schoolhouse. The building, inherited and owned by the estate of former longtime teacher Rosie Ferrin, has sat unused since early 2019.

“The town of New Castle and the businesses are just ecstatic that Rosie’s building is going to be turned back into a school and fixed up,” Skylark Head of School Jesseca Toovey said. “All of the neighbors and the church across the street are super excited that we’re coming to town, and, once again, there will be life coming from the building.”

The white-brick adorned, 17,000 square-foot relic has a long, storied past. Originally built in 1910, it’d serve as a school for the next eight decades before being dropped from the local school district. Ferrin, a teacher there for 10 years, felt compelled to continue the building’s legacy and purchased it in the 1990s.

Jesseca Toovey stands inside the old schoolhouse in downtown New Castle.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

From there, it would serve many functions: a daycare, dancehall and a rollerskating rink. It also held apartments for many years before Rosie Ferrin died in June 2019 at the age of 74.

New Castle mayor Art Riddile acknowledged the history behind the building — much of which was made by Ferrin and her husband.

“Originally, it was a school and Rosie was a teacher there,” he said. “I know a lot of people who went to that school. It’s kind of neat that it’s going back full circle to a school.”

Meanwhile, building code violations also led the city to close it down in early 2019. Electrical issues and lack of fire alarms were the two main bugaboos.

Since then, the historic building at 151 Main St. has sat unoccupied.

But Skylark, which grew from its original 16 students to 56 today, knew its lease was ending and also required more space to house its inflating student population.

After spending the past 1.5 years searching for a new place, Skylark officials struck a bit of luck.

“We just could not find the right building and believe it or not, Rosie’s just kind of fell in our lap,” Toovey said. “I’m a member of New Creation Church and the pastor is sitting there talking about the school one day and he said, “Have you looked at Rosie’s?”

Toovey thought the building was condemned because it sat empty for so long, she said.

A new sign in front of the old schoolhouse in downtown New Castle.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

“I figured they were going to bulldoze that sucker down,” she said.

Toovey was able to track down the Ferrin family and, after making trips to California to negotiate with them, officially finalized a lease just two weeks ago.

Toovey said the plan is to knock out most of the walls upstairs, which helped separate the former apartment units. The upper level will be used for schooling while the Skylark students will also be able to use the building’s gymnasium.

In addition, fire alarms should be installed and electrical will be brought up to code, Toovey said. Meanwhile, the aesthetic integrity of the historical building will be kept intact.

“Most of it’s cosmetic, but it’s getting a huge facelift,” Toovey said.

But Skylark isn’t all the way there just yet. Renovating an old building and later moving into it takes a good amount of funding.

Fundraising efforts of so far accounting for $60,000. Toovey said the goal is to raise $250,000. To help, Contributions accumulated from the annual Skylark Scramble Golf Tournament at the Aspen Glen Club will be allocated toward the effort.

The tourney, located at 545 Bald Eagle Way in Carbondale, is slated for a 1:30 p.m. shotgun start on May 7. Registration ends at 11:30 a.m. Friday.

Vegetation flowers in front of the old schoolhouse in New Castle on Friday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

If all goes according to plan, New Castle Town Administrator David Reynolds, a key participant and overseer of the building’s issues over the years, said having “Rosie’s” restored back to a school will be the best thing the town of New Castle could see.

“We’re excited about the life it’s going to breathe back into that part of downtown,” he said. “It’s going to be exciting to have the kids around, have them have use of the neighboring park and sort of bringing that kind of activity to downtown.”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.