Building given to community in perpetuity
The Methow Community Club, a longtime hub for social gatherings in the town of Methow, is now permanently protected for the community through a generous donation from a resident with deep roots in the lower valley.
Dena Lyn Lee Meadows, whose family has been in the area for generations, spent summers in her house near Gold Creek for a dozen years and moved there full-time several years ago. Shortly after she made the move, she fell ill. Before she died in 2020, Meadows specified that she wanted to donate part of her estate to help the community purchase the building.
“Now, no one can take it away from the town of Methow. It still brings tears to my eyes,” said Rebecca Meadows, Dena’s mother.
The community club has been the center of the community for almost 70 years. For the past two decades, current and former community members have come from far and wide every Tuesday morning to share donuts and conversation in the unassuming space, which is adorned by historic photos and quilts.
Dena Meadows always felt very strongly that this was her home and wanted to do something for the community that locals couldn’t afford to do on their own, Rebecca Meadows said.
Before Dena Meadows died, she talked with her daughter Tayler Mae Smith about donating money so the club could buy the building, which served as the Methow schoolhouse through 1947. Dena Meadows’ estate provided the bulk of the funding; other family and community members also contributed.
“I really wanted this to be that the Methow Community Club has full ownership and control of the schoolhouse,” Smith said.
Making it final
The 1,378-square-foot schoolhouse was still owned by the Pateros School District. But the district no longer used it and had considered selling it. Over the past few decades, the school district allowed the community club to use the building for free. The club maintained the building and grounds.
The property sale between Meadows’ estate and the school district closed a year ago, but it took almost another year to finalize one more step, where the club gave 1/10 acre from its 1-acre parcel to Douglas/Okanogan Fire District 15 to expand the fire station, which is on the adjoining parcel. Dena wanted to be sure the fire district would get enough land to add another bay, Rebecca Meadows said.
The final property transfer comes just in time for the building to celebrate its 102nd anniversary. The construction contract was signed in May 1921, with the requirement that the double-brick building be completed in time for school that September, and they made their deadline, according to Bob Tonseth, a historian of Methow and the lower valley who was community club president for years.
Between losing her mother, COVID, and remote school, Smith did an impressive job of working with attorneys, her mother’s family and her father to accomplish the complex series of transactions, Rebecca Meadows said.
Smith’s aunt Scotti Wiltse, who works for the Pateros School District, helped with the transaction, as did Tonseth and his wife, Fannie.
Long family history
Rebecca Meadows’ family has been on Black Canyon for almost a century. Her grandparents, parents, and aunt and uncle had apple and pear orchards and her father raised sheep.
To Smith, who spent much time in the valley when she was growing up, her mother’s house near Gold Creek feels like home. During the pandemic, she lived there full-time, since she could attend college at the University of Washington remotely.
Unfortunately, the weekly coffee gatherings were on hiatus that year, but Smith is eager to join her neighbors at the club now that they’ve resumed. After she graduates with a joint degree in international studies and the comparative history of ideas, Smith plans to spend more time in the valley, Rebecca Meadows said.
Rebecca Meadows attended school in Pateros, since the Methow schoolhouse had already closed. But she remembers the building as the center of social life, where children put on pageants for their parents; Santa came for Christmas parties; and members of the community held weddings, birthday parties and funerals.
The old schoolhouse is on a beautiful piece of property overlooking the Methow River that could easily have been targeted for development, Rebecca Meadows said.
Community members can use the club for their own event or borrow tables and chairs for a gathering at their own house. There’s no set rent; instead, people are encouraged to make a contribution, Tonseth said. “That would all have gone away if there wasn’t a schoolhouse. There’s no other place to meet,” he said.
Attorney Natalie Kuehler of the Kuehler Law firm and Bill Tackman of Tackman Surveying both provided their services pro bono for the land transaction and boundary-line adjustment.
The community club now has a 501(c)(3) status as a nonprofit, so it’s exempt from property tax, Tonseth said.