Hello Rustic, Meet the Future
By Alesha Damerville
Photography by David Patterson
By Deborah Olsen
STEAMBOAT MAGAZINE- A boarding and day school in Strawberry Park, Steamboat Mountain School is a private college preparatory school that was founded in 1957.
Charlie Williams Lodge, which houses administration offices and classrooms, was rapidly reconstructed in 1977 following a devastating fire. The carpentry was largely done by volunteers. The Borden Center, which houses the school’s cafeteria, is arguably less rustic but is not without its own structural quirks.
While the buildings may have stood the test of time, the school community realized that some things, like modern classrooms and a student lounge, were imperative. Last summer, work began on a new building that would fulfill those needs.
Named the Craig-Scheckman Student Education Center in honor of one of the school’s benefactors, the new building sits directly between the two older structures. Connecting the new and the old aesthetically, as well as physically, posed challenges for Mountain Architecture Design Group and Fox Construction, which designed and built the two-story, 6,000-square-foot building.
“We definitely had a few site challenges, maintaining the integrity of the old structures while keeping up with the times. It was interesting trying to tie all the buildings together, to get them all to look similar and intentional,” says Sarah Fox of Fox Construction.
Local architects Ed Becker and Chancie Keenan with Mountain school’s master plan to ensure that the new building would satisfy the school’s needs for years to come. Students, teachers, administrators, community members and parents provided input. A place for students to gather, modern classrooms, sustainability, accessibility and energy conservation were among their top priorities.
“It was super fun – a really good team and great dynamics. Steamboat Mountain School made it fun. This is the type of project we like to do,” Fox says.
The new building provides a focal point for the campus. A dramatic arched hallway connects it with its two older neighbors. “I see the hallway as an artistic element that doesn’t really compete, yet links the two existing exits,” Becker says.
Bistro tables line the hallway, which opens into the student lounge. A fireplace, study desks, ping pong table and foosball are among the room’s most popular elements. “Walking through the new building, the school feels beyond lively and joyful. No matter the time of day, students can be found laughing over a cup of tea or coffee, dancing, studying, having highly competitive foosball tournaments, or simply lounging or relaxing by the fireplace in the new space,” senior Elle Michaud-Thomas says.
Local artist Lance Whitner, whose daughter attends the school, created two original works that were converted to 20 individual pieces and installed on the risers of the center’s grand staircase.
The second floor of the building houses three classrooms, a living lab and a wellness room. The hallway is used for rotating art exhibits, curated by Linda Laughlin of the Center for Visual Arts.
Elevators provide accessibility to the Craig-Scheckman Center’s second floor and to two adjacent buildings, including a second-floor theater.
A single power vent and a high-velocity ceiling fan circulate the solar gain created by the two-story foyer. “It’s an example of the little, simple things we did to help the school conserve energy,” Becker says.
Charlie Williams Lodge was the prime culprit when it comes to energy use. To correct that, Fox Construction installed a layer of insulation and added new exterior siding, while preserving the log feel inside. “We also put in all new windows and really sealed around them,” Fox says.
An atrium was added at the entrance to the old lodge. Besides serving as an airlock, “it’s another great hangout for the kids,” Becker says.
“The school looks so different now. The new building makes a huge difference,” Fox says. Her company is an expert at historic preservation, having preserved the More Barn – Steamboat’s iconic symbol. This summer, it is slated to move and restore the Arnold Barn (aka “the butterfly barn”) at the entrance of the mountain community. “Clearly, we like this kind of challenge,” she says.
“We love the Steamboat Mountain School program,” she adds. “Did you know the students built their own cubbies? I love that; it helps them develop skills they can use for the rest of their lives. The school has a sustainability program, a greenhouse where they harvest veggies; they are growing the food they are eating. That’s how kids should learn. In the city, some people have zero knowledge of that. We’re all about sustainability. In order for us to continue living the way we do, we all have to do our part.”
“They (Sarah Fox, Kevin Kopasz and Jerry Van Horne of Fox Construction) were just a pleasure to work with,” Becker says. But the best thing about the project? “I think to see the kids enjoying it now – they have a place where they want to be together. That’s the best.”