We’re always excited about the possibility that one of Baker City’s historic buildings not only will be preserved but also will be used beneficially.
Churchill School certainly deserves a spot on that list.
We’re eager to watch as Corrine and Brian Vegter, who recently bought the building at Broadway and 17th, pursue their plans with the 92-year-old structure.
Churchill School was named for J.A. Churchill, an early superintendent of the Baker School District who later served as Oregon’s superintendent of public instruction and as the first president of what became Southern Oregon University.
Jim and Pamela Van Duyn bought Churchill in 2006, four years after the Baker School District closed the building. The Van Duyns were integral in having the building added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.
The Van Duyns initially proposed to remodel Churchill School as apartments for people 55 and older, but that didn’t happen, and the building has remained empty.
The Vegters, who moved to Baker City 11 years ago, have ambitious plans for Churchill besides creating a living space for themselves. These include using one classroom as a nonprofit hostel for touring bicyclists — a natural for the Vegters, avid cyclists who oversee the annual Baker City Cycling Classic, an event started by Nathan Hobson.
The Vegters also want to remodel the cafetorium and use it for concerts and other events that need a larger space.
The couple, both of whom are artists, also hope to cater to the artistic community with rooms available for rent as studios or for classes.
We wish the Vegters well in their efforts, and we look forward to a time when Churchill is distinguished by something other than the persistent elm trees that sprout from the cracks in the playground asphalt.
From the Baker City Herald editorial board. The board consists of editor Jayson Jacoby and reporter Chris Collins.