A new chapter for an old schoolhouse in Nome, ND

Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 6:18 PM CDT
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NOME, N.D. (KFYR) - As more and more people move to urban areas, abandoned schools in rural North Dakota have become the norm. But there’s one in eastern North Dakota that’s gotten a second life.

It could be said a thriving school is the soul of a town. Classes haven’t been held in Nome, North Dakota for more than 50 years, but the town’s schoolhouse has once again become the beating heart of the community.

Everyone that walks into the Nome Schoolhouse is floored by what they see. This statue of liberty has graced the entrance since World War I.

”It’s indescribable. I mean, there really isn’t words for it,” said Chris Armbrust.

But the building didn’t always look this way. The Nome Schoolhouse almost suffered the same fate as many other rural schools that have closed: it was nearly demolished.

”We knew people thought we were crazy. For the first whole year, we went to bank after bank after bank and they all thought we were nuts,” said Teresa Perleberg.

In 2018, Teresa Perleberg and Chris Armbrust had a vision of what this building could become.

”It took our breath away. Here was this beautiful woodwork, here was textbooks and desks that were untouched. It was just amazing,” said Armbrust.

A new roof, tens of thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours of work, and four years later, the schoolhouse is open again with a newfound purpose.

”We’re all about education and educating folks on the fiber arts. You can’t help but learn something when we’re here,” said Armbrust.

The Nome Schoolhouse was built more than a hundred years ago. And today, it’s become the perfect setting for adult education.

”Oh, that’s pretty.”

Students who enroll for classes today experience hands-on education.

”Whenever I teach, I like to make sure that, at the end of the session, the person is really prepared to figure out things on their own,” said Ellen Sakornbut, a guest teacher at the Nome Schoolhouse.

This class is learning to use naturally-occurring materials like sawdust...

”The sawdust is a bright gold color, and that’s where the color comes from,” said Sakornbut.

And insects...

”The cactus bugs that come from South America and Mexico that eat off the prickly pear cactus,” said Sakornbut.

... to transform yarn into vibrant colors.

”I love it because you all have the same passion, and you’re all willing to try different things. Like, someone else is trying something I would never have thought of,” said Lee Ann Mueller of Royalton, Minnesota.

And with class offerings changing all the time, Chris and Teresa say...

”You can’t help but learn something when you’re here.“

”There’s nothing like this in the world.”

Like any schoolhouse, there’s more to this facility than academics. It’s also a wedding venue, restaurant, bar, and hotel. And in a town of about 50, it’s become the bustling center of Nome once more.

The Nome Schoolhouse also houses three businesses run by Teresa and Chris. On Thursday, Your News Leader will bring you more about those businesses and why people from around the world know all about them.