An under celebrated centerpiece of the Gates community, the Historic Gates Schoolhouse was built in 1923, decommissioned, and put up for sale along with the newer school buildings and property in 2012. Upward Bound Camp (UBC) bought the property on which the original school sits in 2014 and operates year-round camps for persons living with developmental and physical disabilities on-site. The Schoolhouse is used currently for the camp’s kitchen, cafeteria and office space, while portions of the building remain unused due to having fallen into disrepair.
The building has fulfilled many roles over its nearly 100 years and its original structure remains largely intact. It served as the town’s highschool from 1923 until the mid-1970’s while serving as a central and frequent meeting place for local organizations and town events. As deemed by the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office, the Schoolhouse is an eligible building to be included on the National Register of Historic Places. Once the renovations are complete, we will officially apply for this designation.
In summer 2020, the devastating Beachie Creek Fire swept through the Santiam Canyon. The UBC campus served as the Incident Command Post for Forest Service personnel and firefighters assigned to control of the Beachie Creek Fire. The town of Gates was significantly damaged by the wildfire and clean-up and rebuilding efforts are still underway. The UBC campus lost four of its primary buildings, including the gym, bunkhouse and activity building, and storage facilities, which were housed on the 18 acre property. However, the Historic Gates Schoolhouse survived with only limited fire damage. The existing metal roof has been directly credited as the reason for the Historic Schoolhouse surviving the fire. The scorched earth surrounding the Schoolhouse is a daily reminder of just how close we came to losing this historic community asset, forever.
The Future/Our Vision
Like many rural communities, Gates and the Santiam Canyon as a whole lack sufficient space to gather, build community, celebrate, attract tourism engagement, and host community programming and events. Coupled with the isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for communal space within our community has been further exacerbated. With the near-loss of the Historic Schoolhouse, a tremendous opportunity to remedy this need was nearly lost as well. Our community and UBC alike believe it is time to bring the Schoolhouse back to its former glory for current and future generations to enjoy.
Once completed, the Schoolhouse will be reestablished as a local and regional asset within the Santiam Canyon, with spaces and amenities to support community gatherings, celebrations, classes, and presentations. The Schoolhouse’s theater space will evoke the small-town community gathering feel of a century ago while offering current technology for productions, community films, and events. The renovated commercial kitchen, food storage and dining space will support events and incubator culinary efforts. The ample meeting spaces will allow opportunity for community groups to conduct trainings, seminars, or classes. The Schoolhouse will again become a celebrated venue, and one that can be used for special events including weddings, graduations, and community celebrations. UBC campers and the wider community at-large will all directly benefit from the revitalization of this important historical asset.
In September 2022, to coincide with the two-year anniversary of the fire, Restore Oregon will announce the Historic Gates Schoolhouse as “The Most Endangered Place” in the state. “Oregon’s Most Historic Places” is a statewide historic preservation program that works to raise public awareness of the cultural, economic, and environmental value of the places Oregonians love and call home, by providing direct consultation, distributing seed grants, advocating for pro-preservation public policy, and helping owners leverage additional grants and private investment to support their efforts. The program assists stakeholders of individual places in their struggles against neglect, demolition, poor public policy, encroaching development, and hard times. UBC is honored by this soon-to-be announced designation and looks forward to working collaboratively with Restore Oregon to build new partnerships and bring the Historic Schoolhouse back to its former glory. This important designation will be utilized as leverage for restoration funding opportunities.