An old schoolhouse overlooking the rolling hills of the Palouse on the southern edge of Spokane County is for sale. But it is no longer a school and hasn’t been one for more than 60 years. Inside, it has been remodeled as a modern mansion.
Built in 1908, the American Renaissance-style brick building designed by Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, architect George Williams now holds five bedrooms, six bathrooms, a couple of large family rooms, a kitchen and dining room, and about half a dozen extra rooms in 8,747 square feet of living space. Include the basement and a full gymnasium for a total 15,881 square feet on 1.43 acres. The property is listed for $699,000 by Connie Newman of Professional Realty Services.
The Latah School, placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002, is “one of the oldest, largest, and best preserved rural brick schoolhouses in the Palouse farming region,” according to the register.
For the last few years, the building functioned as a safe house for victims of sex trafficking. HRC Ministries, the nonprofit that owns the building, has moved the program to another location in Spokane in order to be closer to supportive services. HRC stands for “Helping Redeem Captives.”
Caleb Altmeyer, co-founder and CEO of HRC Ministries, said the organization purchased the property for its rural location and large living spaces.
“The schoolhouse was a blessing,” Altmeyer said. “It was a great place for the survivors who stayed there to rest and relax during their recovery.”
The women who lived in the house said it evoked a feeling of peace, and that it was like no place they had ever lived in, Altmeyer said.
The ministry intends to put money from the sale toward more transitional housing and possibly opening an advocacy center.
About 30 miles south of Spokane Valley, the town of Latah has a population of 185. The agricultural community is situated along Latah Creek, which eventually flows into the Spokane River.
Latah Town Council Member Yvonne Warren said the schoolhouse is a major part of local history, since it provided children from surrounding farms an education for half a century. She is glad to see it so well maintained.
“Having it in such good shape is fantastic,” she said.
The school once employed 11 teachers for about 100 students. The last graduating class was 1958, when Latah joined with nearby towns to form the Liberty School District. The building fell into disrepair until the 2000s, when the previous owners, Kevin and Heidi Turnbough, did much of the restoration work.
“It definitely got a second lease on life, because it was teardown worthy,” Heidi Turnbough said.
The front entrance still has the faded words “Public School” inscribed over a keystone archway. Inside the foyer, a 5-foot-wide grand staircase made of ebony-finished fir ascends to the second floor, which held the upper grades and principal’s office. Today, the second floor holds the bedrooms.
Wide hallways and high ceilings with tall windows on both floors project stately grandeur. Exposed brick walls and strange nooks like cloakrooms give a unique experience of old-fashioned architecture that doesn’t follow a cookie-cutter pattern.
One of the former classrooms has been preserved with an original chalkboard.
An expansive basement includes a wood shop and a four-car garage.
A bell tower at the top of the building was removed in the 1930s because of structural problems. Heidi Turnbough said the bell went to Shadle Park High School in Spokane and was used there as the victory bell. When Shadle was remodeled, the bell was going to be scrapped until someone remembered where it had come from, and it was offered back to the Latah Schoolhouse. The bell now stands in a frame on the lawn.
The gymnasium was added in 1920 and is connected to the rest of the building through French doors and a breezeway holding several side rooms. The gym features refinished original maple flooring with a basketball court, a stage at one end and a balcony surrounding three sides.
According to a class of 1946 report quoted by the National Register, the gym made Latah “the center of basketball” in southeastern Spokane County and the “Latah Basketball Team advanced faster than any other team around.”
The Turnboughs rented out the gym as a wedding venue. Heidi Turnbough said hosting these events was a fun opportunity to open the building to the public.
Many alumni visited over the years, and in 2008 they hosted an all-class reunion.
When their three children left home, it wasn’t as fun to live in and it became harder to maintain, so they decided to sell in 2019. “It was a very large space for two people,” Heidi Turnbough said.
The property is commercially zoned, with residential mixed use allowed. That means a new owner could use it as a residence, as a business or both.
Prospective buyers have had a wide range of possible uses in mind, said Newman, the real estate agent.
As a residence, it could be shared by a large or multigenerational family. It could be used as a group home, an artist residency, a bed-and-breakfast or for short-term rentals. Other ministries have expressed interest in using it as a retreat center. The gymnasium could be used as dance studio.
“The possibilities are limitless,” Newman said.
James Hanlon’s reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community.