By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

Brian and Corrine Vegter always lacked storage space at their house.

Now they have room upon room of storage closets.

And classrooms.

And a cafetorium.

And a stage with red velvet curtains.

As of Thursday, the Vegters own Churchill School — a dream they had 11 years ago when they first moved to Baker City.

They have a lot of work ahead to restore the 31,000-square-foot building, which opened in 1926 and was closed as a school in 2002.

Although the Vegters had hoped to put an offer on the property 11 years ago, the school district sold Churchill in 2006 to Jim and Pamela Van Duyn for $205,000. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

The timing may have worked out for the better.

“Eleven years ago we didn’t have the resources, friends or community connections,” Corrine said.

The Vegters’ first project was to start removing the elm trees sprouting through cracks in the blacktop.

Inside, their first focus will be on the western section of the school, which includes the kitchen, cafetorium, stage, bathrooms, showers and a classroom.

They plan to turn that classroom into a bike hostel, with multiple sleeping pods adhered to the walls. Each pod will have a bed, electrical outlet and light. Access to the upper pods would be by stairs, not ladders.

Corrine said she’d like to install 20 beds. The room is equipped with a sink, and she envisions offering granola, tea and coffee. Showers and bathrooms will be located just down the hall.

The hostel, she said, will be nonprofit, with a percentage of the proceeds going to Baker Loves Bikes.

The cafetorium’s tile floor has buckled from years of temperature changes. This summer, Loran Joseph will remove the old and install a new hardwood floor.

The Vegters envision using the space for concerts, fundraisers, “and events that would fit in a place this size,” Brian said.

“There’s a bunch of things we’ve never considered that people have brought up,” he said.

The kitchen, after some work, will again be functional and even has a separate outside entrance for catering services.

Interior Plans

Touring the rest of the school, the Vegters have plans for each space. Nearly all include restoring or uncovering the windows to let in abundant natural light.

The former teachers lounge will be used as a meeting space, or perhaps a room for small art classes.

The principal’s office will house their own personal desk and office.

“It’ll be nice to have space to do our paperwork,” Corrine said.

One classroom will be repurposed into a rentable space for small events, and a few of the smaller spaces can also be rented as artist studios.

See more in the May 21, 2018, issue of the Baker City Herald.

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