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The History of Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center

1820s: Schools in Cowee are subscription schools


Post-Civil War - 1880s: Peabody School, near present day Snow Hill Methodist Church, is considered one of the best schools in the region


Late 1880s: County builds an elementary school on Rickman Creek with one teacher and a four-month school year


1930s - 1940s: Current school location is the site of a Civilian Conservation Corp camp


1943: School opens after being constructed as a Works Project Administration project. The new school combined Cowee, Oak Grove, Tellico, Morgan, Rose Creek, Liberty, and Harmony Schools


1944: Lunchroom built in an old storage building


1952: A new oil furnace replace the pot-bellied stoves that heated each room


1954: Two brick classrooms added to main building as well as a separate brick structure for the kitchen and cafeteria


Early 2000s: Macon County begins planning for a north Macon Elementary school to consolidate Iotla and Cowee Schools


2001: Cowee West's Mill Historic District is formed and recognized on the US Registry of Historic Places encompassing 360 acres with 56 buildings and Cowee Mound


2006: Macon County announces plans to consolidate Iotla and Cowee Schools at the site of Iotla Elementary


2006: Cowee Community Development Organization develops a plan to preserve the school and repurpose the building as a community  and heritage center


2008: The Mountain Landscapes Initiative recognizes Cowee School as being critical to the development of the Cowee Valley as a heritage destination


2010: Cowee School, through support from Macon County, the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee (LTLT) and the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, hosts a three-day charette to gather public input on the repurposing of the school as a community and heritage center. 


2011: Macon County contracts with LTLT to produce a business plan to guide in the development of the Macon County Heritage Center at Cowee School


2012: After 69 years, Cowee School closes its doors as an elementary school. The property is transferred from the School Board to Macon County and work begins to develop the Heritage Center


2012: The Cherokee Preservation Foundation becomes the first of many organizations to award grant funding directly to the project


2012: The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area awards Cowee School a grant to create a music venue in the school gym and designates Cowee School as a stop along the Blue Ridge Music Trails


2013: The last of the eight mobile classrooms is sold and removed, opening up the front grounds for recreation and events


2013: The Macon County Commissioners appoint an advisory board to oversee the development of the Heritage Center


2013: Cowee Textiles becomes the first tenant at Cowee School, followed soon by the Macon County Historical Society room, Cowee Pottery School, Cynthia Kinard, Local History & Genealogy Research room, and Jon Houglum. 


2013: Hundreds turn out for the First Annual Cowee School Celebration, Balsam Range headlines for the event, kicking off the first Summer Concert Series at Cowee School.


2014: Macon County retires the old oil-fired furnace and installs a modern heating and cooling system, making the gym bearable in summer months for the first time in school's history


2014: Funded by a donation from the family of Annie Dee Leatherman Smith, the Cowee School Community Garden is constructed


2014: The Cowee Farmers' Market begins offering local produce and products on Tuesday afternoons. 


2015: The kitchen is certified by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture as a shared-use kitchen. Brew Nutz is the first commercial user


2015: Macon County Heritage Center at Historic Cowee School receives its 501(c)3 status


2015: Cowee School Gallery opens

2016: Renamed to "Cowee Arts & Heritage Center" to encompass Macon and all surrounding counties. 



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