A Madison County family, which routinely restores old school buildings, will also restore the old Cedar Point School that’s been a part of the Archer community for more than 100 years.
Roger Riley and his son and daughter-in-law, Juston and Nicole Riley, want to renovate the 2,000-square-foot three-room building. The family will move the school across the Archer Highway to the family’s property where they will renovate it to its glory days.
The Riley family has owned the school for decades, and Roger Riley grew up next door to the school on the family’s farm.
Roger Riley always liked school and thus his reason for buying two other former Madison County Schools. Those include the old Burton Elementary School that he lives in and the old Archer Elementary School the family now runs as an Airbnb.
“I’ve got my ABC’s — Archer, Burton and Cedar Point,” he said.
Despite the school being more than a century old, it’s still sturdy, said Roger Riley. He always wanted to renovate the old building, but it wasn’t until about 10 years ago, the family seriously considered upgrading the facility. Yet, about the same time the Archer School went up for sale, and the family’s focus shifted, Juston Riley said.
“It came up for bid, and instead of working on Cedar, we put a bid on Archer and won it,” Juston Riley said. “The Burton School came up for sale, and we bid on that and won it. We’re finally getting around to moving the old school. It’s taken a while, but we’re working on it.”
The Cedar Point School was built along the Archer Highway around 1905 and educated the region’s children for five decades. After the school closed, it wasn’t unusual to find teenagers visiting the facility.
“It’s been the go-to place for high school kids,” Juston Riley said. “I think everybody’s been in the building at least once in their life. We’d watch old movies in the old Cedar Point School.”
In a 1971 Brigham Young University-Idaho-produced “Voices from the Past,” former Cedar Point School teacher Andrew Anderson Nelson told of being hired to work at the school. At 21 years of age, Nelson taught grades one through four — for all of $60 a month.
“Well, $60 a month doesn’t look very good now, but it was fairly good wages at the time,” Nelson said.
Nelson taught there during the 1910 school year but found it not to his liking. Four years later, the school board requested and insisted upon his services again despite his teaching credentials having expired.
“The trustees asked me if I would teach for a day or two,” Nelson said. “The day school started they came after me because the teacher they hired hadn’t shown up.”
The following year, Nelson served as the school’s principal. He oversaw a student population of around 125 youths who attended grades one through eight.
In 1924, Nelson married fellow teacher and “Dutch girl” Wilhelmina Margaretha Vanderwel. The couple went on to have nine children. Vanderwel taught school during the first two months of school while her husband farmed “topping beats.”
“When I finished, I went up and finished the season (school year),” Nelson said.
Vanderwel continued teaching at the school until it shuttered. For the next 70 years, the school sat idle — except for the occasional visit from teenagers.
Juston Riley has met former students who attended one of the schools his family owns.
“It’s kind of fun to find them and pick their brains,” he said.
It’s not unusual for travelers to stop in front of the old Cedar Point School and take pictures, Juston Riley said.
“Just yesterday (Monday) somebody drove by and hand drew a picture of it and dropped it off,” he said. “It was a pretty picture. Just some random guy had hand drawn it.”
While the exterior of the school is an item of interest for photographers and artists, the interior of the school has seen better days.
“We took all the lath and plaster off the inside,” said Juston Riley. “The walls, the plaster and chalkboards — we had to take those down. We boarded up the windows.”
While a dirt floor remains inside the building, it’s possible to see where walls divided the three classrooms. There are no electrical outlets or plumbing inside the school.
“I think there was once an old drinking fountain there,” he said. “That was it. No bathroom. It was just three rooms,” he said.
The Rileys have no qualms about moving the building, Juston Riley insisted.
“A lot of people say ‘What’s the point of moving it? Why not build a new one?’” he said. “There’s a lot of historical value in the old building. It’s kind of fun. It has character.”
The family plans to move the Cedar Point School in the near future. Once it’s moved, the family will restore it.
“I don’t know what we’ll do with it,” Roger Riley said. “It’s probably too small for an Airbnb. We’ll move it across the street and see from there.”