By Barbara Doyle
This is the final installation of a multi-part series on the history of Central School. Installments in this series are adapted from Barbara Doyle’s book on this topic: From Then ’til Now: Schooling in Newberg, Oregon.
Image above shows the renovation of the Central School ballroom
Officially the building became Chehalem Cultural Center in 2006 – but the building lacked heat, electricity, water, lights, and many interior walls. The Cultural Committee formed fund-raising and friend-raising subcommittees. Private donations and a $400,000 grant from the Ford Family Foundation provided enough money to begin the renovation tasks. Thematic programs lured local folks into and around the building – even onto a model railroad train ride to meet Santa.
A part-time employee was hired. All contractor work had to meet Silver Status Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Chehalem Park and Recreation District agreed to cover all future costs for construction of a ‘Public Plaza’ at the front entrance on Sheridan Street. A ceremonial ‘ground breaking’ event was held in April 2009. The first Executive Director took over all the organization and management tasks.
The construction crew finished the main entrance and gallery. The east side of the building’s first floor was converted into office space including a flexible conference room, two craft studios, rest rooms plus two art studios on the second floor. Federal grants helped pay for a seismic upgrade, new roofing and windows, and ADA bathroom features. The Grand Opening began March 8, 2010 and stretched over seven days. A clearly stated message was ‘the Cultural Center is free and open to the public’.
Financial concerns loomed large as did the need to ‘be visible’. Portland Community College rented space for classrooms for one year. Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce stayed in the mostly unfinished west-wing rooms but didn’t pay any rent. Artists gave classes for a fee. Grants were pursued. Free large scale annual events were introduced: the November Dia de los Muertos program celebrates the community’s Latin American culture, the Camellia Festival in April recognizes Newberg’s official flower, the Lavender Festival in July acknowledges the area’s agricultural heritage. The formal ‘Night of the Moon’ auction/dinner has become a very profitable September fund-raiser.
Chehalem Cultural Center has grown into a busy and successful organization. Grant funds flowed in, so did donations. The front entrance area on Sheridan Street was expanded and landscaped; it became the ‘Public Plaza’. A new entrance on Sherman Street [the north side] along with a parking lot was finished. The old gymnasium built in 1959 was renovated and became the ballroom – the place for large events like conferences, fund-raising activities, concerts, festivals, dinners, a wonderful Teddy Roosevelt impersonation…
The most recent renovation took place in 2019. The first floor of the west wing now includes a black-box theater, more rest rooms, more storage space and a commercial kitchen to facilitate dinner events and culinary classes. Most of the second floor is still unfinished.
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