Century-old schoolhouse sold near Livingston

Yellowstone Newspapers

A Livingston couple bought a 100-year-old schoolhouse yesterday. 

Roger and Sandy Nelson, currently of Livingston, were the winners in the auction of the Springdale School and its surrounding property Monday, Nov. 27, after offering the high bid of $110,000. The bidding started at the recent appraisal value of $63,000, Park County Civil Deputy Attorney Shannan Piccolo, who conducted the auction, announced before the bidding began. 

The school, located in Springdale near the eastern border of Park County, was built in 1918, has not had students for the past three years. By Montana law, such districts without students must close by the end of the third year, Park County Superintendent of School Jo Newhall said recently. 

The auction was held in the lobby of the City-County Complex Monday at 2 p.m. About 20 people had gathered, some appearing to be interested bystanders. The bidding ricocheted between Roger Nelson, standing on one side of the lobby in a black cowboy hat, and Peter Ponca, standing on the other side. Ponca, who works in IT for the Livingston School District, said he was interested in turning the one-room school into living quarters. 

Within a matter of a few minutes, the Nelsons found themselves the new owners of the Springdale School. The school sits on about an acre of land, which is included in the sale. 

Sandy Nelson said she’s not sure at the moment what their plans are for the building. 

“We have a lot of ideas, but nothing firm yet,” she said. 

Nelson grew up in the area and attended the Springdale School herself as a child, she said. She added that she’d like to consider keeping the structure somehow in the public realm, possibly as a community center. 

Newhall said Tuesday she had hoped the property would go for at least $100,000, commenting she was “amazed” that anything would have been appraised for so little. 

The proceeds of the sale will be distributed among three surrounding elementary school districts, Newhall said — Livingston and Shields Valley in Park County, and McLeod in Sweet Grass County. The distribution will be determined by a territory map that divided the former Springdale School District between the three nearby districts. The largest apportionment falls within the Livingston School District. 

Property owners who were paying taxes to the Springdale District will now pay them to one of the three districts according to the apportioning map, their property lies within, Newhall said.