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100 years and counting

Wilsonville's oldest school reincarnated over time


by: JOSH KULLA - The Union Hill School was built in 1913 and served local students for nearly 20 years before being closed.With more and more development moving into Wilsonville, some of the city’s landmarks have disappeared.

But the folks at St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church are working to ensure another one stays intact.

On the church’s property just south of of the Willamette River is a tiny, one-room school, which was built in 1912 and saw its first round of students in 1913. Since acquiring the school in the early 1980s, the church has been a steward of the school, tending to it, repairing it and honoring its history.

Union Hill School was built on what is now the corner of Miley Road and Interstate 5. The school was warmed with a pot-bellied stove and had a shed and an outhouse out back. The school also had a tiny library just off the main room, which was at one time converted into a kitchen area.

In 1932, the school closed as more people moved into the area and students were sent to Aurora, Canby and later Wilsonville.

However, the school got a new life when a small group of women who had attended school there formed a club. At the school, they held events and hosted dances and parties and guest speakers. Monthly dues for the club were 10 cents for daytime events and 25 cents for both day and evening events.

“They got down. They had fun,” said Terri Hoffmann, a 20-year member of St. Francis of Assisi.

In 1944, the women pooled their money, $500, and bought the building, Hoffmann said. One of those women was Kathleen Wisdom, whom the building is now dedicated to.

According to Hoffman, during World War II the school was used in the evening to keep a lookout for enemy planes.

Over the years, the club died and the building fell into disrepair. It was vacant for years.

“It was a mess,” Hoffmann said.

In the late 1970s, she said, the Wilsonville Moose Lodge started using the Union Hill School for its meetings and remodeled it.

Then, in the early 1980s, St. Francis of Assisi purchased the property the school was on and land adjacent to it. They moved the school back on the property, with a new foundation, to make room to build a church. Services were held in the old school during church construction.

In 1996, the Union Hill School was rededicated to honor Kathleen Wisdom and is now called the Wisdom House.

“She was amazing,” Hoffmann said. “She was just a force of nature.”

The building is still being used today by the public, including an AA group and a Roman Catholic organization that preserves sacred art.

“We think this is just the coolest thing,” Hoffmann said of the school house. “This is the kind of stuff that gets ripped down. It’s so easy for (old buildings) to fall into disrepair.”

To celebrate the school’s 100th anniversary, the church held an open house and coffee hour Sept. 22. Also, the church is in the process of have the building listed as a historical site.by: JOSH KULLA - The old wooden floor of the Union Hill School, now called the Wisdom House, is a reminder that the building is now a century old.



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