8. The Little Red Schoolhouse

School, Fire Hall, Diner and Library, this little building has seen it all!

Built in 1894 by Newton Jones and Jim Farnsworth, the Lopez Library began life as a schoolhouse, later serving as a restaurant and even a fire house. The lumber for the school arrived in July 1894 aboard the Schooner Port Admiral. Students went to school for only a few months of the year, and had long summer holidays to help their families bring the hay in or put up food for winter. The school, originally painted white, served first through eighth grade. It was common practice for Lopez students to go to Bellingham for high school, boarding with friends and family. In the first half of the twentieth century, Lopez Island had 4 school districts: Lopez (this one), Mud Bay (on the corner of Aleck Bay and Mud Bay Roads), Port Stanley (owned by Lopez Island Historical Society, still in use for educational and community purposes), and Center School (currently the Grange). In 1940, they became one school district, opening in 1941 where the Lopez Island School is today.

After the schools were consolidated, Mr. and Mrs. Coder ran a restaurant called the “Little Red School House.” They served burgers, fries, and malts. If you wanted to call the restaurant in 1951, you simply dialed "122." The business was later sold to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Fredrickson who ran it until they built the “Upright House” near the ferry.

In the early 1960s, the Lopez Fire Department was formed. With the help of Nan and Otis Perkins, they successfully acquired two Ford Model F 850 trucks that were retrofitted as fire trucks, and by 1963 had turned the school building into an engine house. In 1975, the current Fire Hall was built and the following year the Lopez Library League leased the original schoolhouse for a reading room. Previously, the Library, another project of Nan's, had lived in various locals’ homes and basements.

The Fire Department expanded their space in 1983 and formally donated the schoolhouse to the Lopez Library League. That year, the League spearheaded a drive to form a tax-supported library district. Out of this effort they purchased the land across the street and moved the Little Red Schoolhouse to the present location. With the move, Howard “Pete” Peterson designed two new wings that were added to the original building. The Lopez Library opened its doors on Saturday, April 12, 1986. The Library has since had two additional remodels, more than doubling floor space. The building has been an important part of the Lopez community for well over 100 years!

Below, is a student’s recollection from Sara Bruns Dillman, who attended the Lopez School from 1909-1915

“When I was in the eighth grade at the one room school at Lopez, Mrs. Nichols, our teacher, arranged for the eighth grade to take the State examination in the middle of the term, just to see how we would do, though she was not expecting us to pass. It was a rule that we couldn’t take the examination in our own school, but we must go to another school. So, the seven of us tramped through the snow for several miles to Port Stanley School. There was lots of snow that winter, and my father had made a sled, hitched the horse to it, and come to Port Stanley School to get me and the others after the exams were over.

I don’t remember how long it was after that, but not long, I think, that Mrs. Nichols came to our house and brought the certificate informing me I had passed the eighth grade. I was so thrilled, I practically walked on air for several days!”

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2225 Fisherman Bay Road, Lopez Island, WA 98261