Jul 172013

The Snowflake Academy building will celebrate its 100th birthday on Thanksgiving Day this year. In anticipation of this milestone and to redouble efforts to renovate the building, Snowflake authorities, working with the Snowflake Academy and Snowflake Heritage foundations, have designated the theme of this year’s annual Pioneer Days celebration Snowflake Academy: Building the Future. Pioneer Days will take place Friday and Saturday, July 26 and 27.
The usual array of family-focused activities are planned over the weekend, including a kids’ race, parade, rodeo, barbecue, vendor fair and pioneer program. This year, proceeds from some of the events will directly benefit the academy renovation project. A portion of food concession sales at the rodeos will go to the building, as will a portion of ticket sales for a concert by Neon Circus, a Brooks and Dunn tribute band. Neon Circus will perform at 7 p.m. on July 26 and 27 in the Snowflake High School Auditorium. As in past years, all ticket sales from a quilt raffle will go toward the renovation fund. New this year, the Academy Building will be open to the public with the quilts on display. Thus, the public will have an opportunity to see not only the quilts to be raffled, but also the progress on the renovation project.
Pioneer Days will kick off a year-long fundraising campaign for the academy. Significant events include the publication of a book by David Flake on the history of the Snowflake Academy, a not-to-be-missed fundraising dinner later in the year, an auction and more. Behind the scenes, the foundation is making a renewed effort to reach potential donors who attended school in the building, but who no longer live in the area. Also, a strategy to appeal for private foundation money, in addition to public grant money, is being pursued.
Though not as old as many of the pioneer-era brick homes for which Snowflake is famous, the Academy Building has become an icon. From its prominent perch on the hill, it presides over the community that has seen many changes since 1913. Once the renovation is complete, the building will house the new, state-of-the-art Snowflake-Taylor Public Library, a fitting use for an edifice that figured prominently in the education of thousands of students for nearly a century. At its completion in November 1913 (it was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day), the building was part of the LDS Church Academy system, a late 19th-early 20th century educational program that reached across the Frontier West. Academies were established in at least 24 Mormon settlements throughout the West, including Snowflake. The building was originally built with private donations and matched by LDS money. In 1924, the edifice became part of the newly-formed Snowflake Union High School, one of the first rural high schools in Arizona.
In 2001, the building was purchased for $278,760 by the Town of Snowflake, and plans were drawn for a $3 million renovation to bring the building to modern standards and to remodel it as a library. A bond to raise the money was rejected by voters several times during the last decade, so the Snowflake Academy Foundation has relied on private donations and public grant money for the renovations which have been completed thus far.
“It’s been tough to raise money in the current economic climate,” said Foundation Board President Cris Chugg, “but we continue to look for innovative approaches to make progress.” Chugg noted that the foundation is focusing on an incremental approach because of the challenge of raising such a large sum without the bond money. “We are taking a step by step approach, prioritizing work to get the first floor open and eventually get the library moved in.” So far, approximately $750,000 has been raised.
The Snowflake-Taylor Public Library is currently located in what was once a lumber supply sales warehouse, an out-of-the-way location in a less-than-ideal building.
Librarian and foundation board member Cathie McDowell, who has successfully applied for hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money for the project, is focusing the board on better communication with the public as to where the project stands and the overall vision for the building’s future. “What we’re doing is kind of the reverse of ‘show and tell,’ to use a schoolroom analogy. We are going to ‘tell and show.’ Tell those who are interested what needs to be done, then show them the progress as it is made.” She said that much of the money raised so far has been spent on structural work to bring the building up to code, noting “It’s the kind of behind-the-scenes work that’s difficult to see, but is necessary to meet modern building standards.” McDowell said the handicap access elevator was one of the major hurdles, as well as the basement, which has been completed, but is largely invisible to the general public.
The next major project on the renovation, the installation of a fire sprinkler system, will begin in August. According to Chugg, the sprinkler system is a major step to opening the building to the public. Given the history of the academy, it’s also a very significant step. The original building, completed in 1910, burned to the ground as the people of Snowflake looked on helplessly. There was no fire department at the time. Shortly thereafter, they sacrificed all over again to build the current building, a monument to their ability to rise to the challenge.
“Thanks to our donors, a $38,000 Community Development Block Grant from Navajo County, a $146,000 CDBG grant from the Town of Snowflake and an Arizona State Library grant for $20,000, we will be able to make significant progress this year. We will soon begin the renovation of the front steps and a handicap ramp at the main entry, repairs to the interior stairway and the installation of a fire sprinkler system,” said Chugg.
Applications to regional and national private foundations for grant money is a new area of focus, but individual donors are more important to the project than ever. “One hundred years ago, the people came through, twice, to build this building,” said Chugg. “We are asking the descendants of those pioneers to come through again. We are determined to make the renovation a reality.”
To learn more about the Snowflake Academy renovation project or to make a donation, please visit www.snowflakeacademy.com.Photo courtesy of the Snowflake Academy Foundation The Snowflake Academy, circa 1920