A crowd of former students, teachers and administrators, many with old photographs and other memorabilia to share, gathered at Coe Primary Building Thursday to celebrate the building’s 100th birthday.
In his opening remarks, Hood River County School District Superintendent Dan Goldman said the celebration wasn’t really for the building, which now houses Community Education, but for those who had learned and worked there.
“The people make the school,” he said.
Coe Primary was built in 1916 for $18,000, the funds raised by a school levy, said former superintendent Pat Evenson-Brady, who organized the event. The original building held seven classrooms, and the playground was situated where the parking lot sits today. It served as an elementary school until 1969, when Westside Elementary opened its doors.
Coe was the first school built in the new District No. 14 — Hood River County having been formed only eight years prior after breaking off from Wasco County — and was named after Nathaniel Coe, chairman of the first school board in Hood River, from 1865-1868. Former schools in the Hood River City District, Park Street (1895), Pleasant View (1905) and the first Hood River High School (1908), were demolished decades ago, making Coe now the oldest standing district site.
And it’s not just Coe who is celebrating a milestone birthday.
“We celebrate a hundred years in this building, and 150 years as a district,” Goldman said. “There were 18 legal voters in the entire area in 1865, and they voted to tax themselves in order to have a school district.”
Those original 18 paid $90 as a group to pay a teacher for one term of service. “Fast forward to today, 150 years later — we have a fabulous school district we are all proud of,” he said, noting Hood River County’s high graduation rate (84 percent, compared to the state average of 74 percent). “We serve over 60 percent of our students free and reduced lunch, and 25 percent are English learners,” he added. “You all should be proud of this school district and the outcomes we have for these kids.”
Hood River County Education Foundation is also celebrating a birthday this year — its 25th. The foundation annually awards $50,000 in scholarships to graduating seniors, and has pledged the same amount per year to fund middle school sports programs. For more information, visit www.hrcef.org.
To celebrate the district’s 150th birthday, The History Museum of Hood River County has a special exhibit on display now until June, entitled “Encyclopedia to Wikipedia: 150 Years of Education in Hood River County.” At the heart of the exhibit is a tin box found last year on a storeroom shelf which contains the handwritten records of the establishment of the district in 1865.
Also on display: A 2016 competition robot on loan from the Hood River Valley High School engineering class, traditional artifacts such as teachers’ desks and books used in the 19th century, and old school yearbooks.
The History Museum of Hood River County is located at 300 E. Port Marina Drive in Hood River, and is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and students, and free for those under the age of 10. For more information about this or other museum programs, contact Executive Director Lynn Federle Orr at director@hoodriver historymuseum.org, or 541-386-6772.