History revealed as old Forks High School building of 'Twilight' fame becomes a memory
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Lonnie Archibald/for Peninsula Daily News
Construction worker Tony Conlin examines the cornerstone. The old building is in the background.
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Lonnie Archibald/for Peninsula Daily News
Diana Reaume, superintendent of Quillayute Valley School District, and Bill Henderson, district maintenance supervisor, examine scraps of newspaper found behind the cornerstone pulled from the 1925 portion of Forks High School. The newspaper, believed to be the Olympic Leader-Tribune, a weekly, is badly deteriorated and almost unreadable.

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

FORKS — Efforts to save the 1925 facade at Forks High School ended earlier this month when the last remnant of the then-named Quillayute Union High School was demolished.

But the venerable building still has more history to reveal.

One time capsule was opened this month and two more thought to be on the old school campus will be investigated later, and part of the facade will be preserved.

The oldest portions of Forks High School — made famous literarily in the Twilight series of teen romance novels — became doomed after an $11 million school construction bond was approved to raze them and build new school buildings.

Attempts were made to save the historic facade — which had great sentimental value for its generations of graduates and was a popular spot for Twilight fans to have their pictures taken in front of the entrance proclaiming “Quillayute High School.”

But the condition of the 86-year-old brick-and-mortar facade was too poor to save without expensive renovations.

A community effort to raise the $287,000 needed to save the facade raised only a few thousand dollars.

The school district asked the demolition crew to hold off until the last possible moment, Quillayute Valley School District Superintendent Diana Reaume said.

There was hope that a donor would come through in the eleventh hour, but time ran out, Reaume said.

In March, the demolition crew had done as much as it could while working around and protecting the facade, she said.

There was still no funding to preserve the facade, so the Quillayute Valley School Board made the decision to tear it down.

On June 16, the facade came down, and bricks were piled in heaps nearby. All that remained were the foundation and the 1925 cornerstone.

A small group was present the removal of the terra cotta cornerstone and uncovering of the time capsule that “everyone knew” was placed there during its construction in the early 1920s, Maintenance Supervisor Bill Henderson said.

When the cornerstone was pulled out, the crew found a hollow in the back with a piece of newsprint.

The only thing found in the cornerstone was an old, musty newspaper.

“It wasn't much of a time capsule,” Henderson said.

There was no evidence that there was anything like the modern concept of a time capsule placed in the wall behind the original cornerstone, he said.

The newspaper remnants were sealed in a plastic bag and taken by Reaume to see what could be learned from it.

Adrian Fuhrman, a Forks historian, was able to identify the deteriorated newspaper as a 1925 edition of the Olympic-Tribune — a weekly newspaper published by the Port Angeles Evening News, predecessor of the Peninsula Daily News.

But the deterioration is so bad, she hasn't been able to find additional details, including the exact issue date.

It was Fuhrman's late mother-in-law, Magda Kaemmle, who knew of the time capsule, said West End author and photographer Lonnie Archibald, whose work as a freelance photographer is often published in the PDN.

Kaemmle was a graduate of the very first graduating class of Quillayute Union High School.

She shared her experience of watching the placement of the time capsule with Archibald, who included the information in his book, There Was a Day.

As part of the school's conditional use permit, the old terra cotta cornerstone and lintel, engraved with “Quillayute High School,” will be preserved as part of the interior of the new high school, Reaume said.

The old elements will be installed on the indoor portion of the new school's double entryway, which will be called “Heritage Hall”

The indoor location will protect the old cornerstone and lintel, while new 1925 and 2011 cornerstones — and a matching “Forks High School” lintel — will be installed outside.

“We're going to incorporate the old into the new,” Reaume said.

The school also plans to continue the tradition of time capsules, she said.

A new time capsule will be placed behind the 2011 cornerstone to be found when — far in the future — the new structure is ready to be replaced.

This one will be done right, Reaume said.

Contents of the new time capsule will be chosen by current high school students.

If there are paper products included in the new time capsule, it will be encased in an acid-free, sealed container to protect the contents, she said.

The 1925 time capsule was something of a letdown, but there may be two more chances for time capsules.

School records show that there are two more time capsules hidden on the old high school property, from 1963 and 1994, Reaume said.

Each was created and buried by the graduating classes of those years.

Both are buried underground in recorded locations, Reaume said.

Once the rubble that litters the old schoolgrounds is removed, the time capsules will be located using a metal detector, she said.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-417-3535 or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 26. 2011 9:53PM
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