Ketchikan school gets on national historic register

Posted: Wednesday, October 12, 2005

KETCHIKAN - The National Park Service has named Ketchikan's former Clover Pass School to the National Register of Historic Places.

With that, the 58-year-old one-room schoolhouse on Potter Road in the Knudson Cove area became the 15th National Register property in Ketchikan, according to Historic Ketchikan Executive Director Dave Kiffer, who announced the designation Monday.

Clover Pass community members built the 18-by-24-foot school in 1947 to avoid busing their children into town for school, he said.

"The school is the physical embodiment of Ketchikan's can-do attitude," he said.

After the 1960s, the building was used as a polling station, a community center and a library. Since then, the building has sat vacant and become dilapidated.

Last summer, volunteers cleared brush from around the building, replaced some windows and fixed a bad leak in the roof. The building still needs a sewer system and foundation work, as it has been sinking into the muskeg, Kiffer said.

"One of the primary reasons we sought National Register designation is the ownership of the site is somewhat in question," Kiffer said. "Right now we can't do the foundation renovation or sewer, simply because the land is not ours."

Although Historic Ketchikan holds the title to the building, the federal Bureau of Land Management holds the title to the two-acre parcel of land. The University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan campus has a selection on the land that it had been hoping to trade with the Ketchikan Gateway Borough for parcels next to the university campus. Kiffer said although the trade did not go through, the university has not deselected the land.

The BLM has supported Historic Ketchikan through the 18-month application process for the registry, Kiffer said.

"BLM officials in Anchorage processed the national register nomination and also shepherded it through the National Park Service process," he said.

He said he hopes the BLM will continue to support the historic use of the building by agreeing to a long-term management lease for the property. Kiffer said he plans to negotiate terms for a lease when BLM officials visit Ketchikan in November.

"The Knudson Cove area is popular with developers right now," he said. "Several nearby properties have changed hands in the last couple years. That makes it even more crucial to save this property for the use of the community as a whole."

Once Historic Ketchikan reaches an agreement with the BLM, Kiffer said renovations can begin.

Historic Ketchikan has commitments from local businesses to donate labor, but being on the National Register "will allow us to get some federal restoration grant money," Kiffer said.

He estimated the restoration would cost about $50,000.

When completed, Historic Ketchikan plans to rent out the building to pay for its upkeep.

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