The first time I ever visited the Stechoa Valley Center was in October 2014. Some of you may remember I spoke at the annual conference of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association (SEOPA) last fall. I was also asked to do an Appalachian Cooking demonstration during the conference and lucky for me the chosen location was the Stechoa Valley Center.
From the moment I walked in the back door of the building I was in love. I took a peek down the hallway and instantly felt I had been there before. Chitter and I were carrying my supplies in and it was all I could do to keep from running through the building.
Chitter said “What’s up with you?” I said “This building is just like the old Martins Creek School. I mean everything is the same it even smells the same way!”
I spent over 8 years at the old Martins Creek Elementary School and was so saddened when it burned to the ground. All these years later I still dream about the old school sometimes.
The following few paragraphs are from the Stecoah Valley Center Website and detail both the history of the school and the purpose of the center today.
“Stecoah Union School welcomed its first students in October 1926. The school was built of native rock with the skill and labor of many local residents. On Dedication Day, the proud community posed for the panoramic photograph shown above and now featured in the auditorium. After sixty-eight years of service to the community, the school was closed in consolidation in 1994.
Stecoah Valley Arts, Crafts & Educational Center, Inc., a non-profit corporation, was formed by a group of concerned citizens dedicated to restoring the historic school to its original role as the center of the community.
The school property consists of the main school building, adjacent gymnasium building and grounds. The original main building burned shortly after completion; the present school building was constructed within the same rock walls and reopened in 1930. It remains today a beautiful solid stone structure surrounded by approximately ten acres of natural mountain land.
The name Stecoah is derived from the Cherokee language. The term “Usdi Gohi,” meaning “little place” was applied to many places by the Cherokee, but here the words became “Stecoah” and the name stuck.
At any time during year, stop by to view our permanent Cherokee history exhibit that documents the history of the Cherokee in Stecoah Valley; and to see the Cherokee arts and crafts in the Stecoah Gallery.
Growing from an abandoned school building just a few short years ago to the vibrant center of the community today, Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center now offers over 20 programs to approximately 10,000 people annually. The Center brings music to the mountains through the summer performing arts series An Appalachian Evening, as well as the Annual Harvest Festival and other events. Additionally, the Stecoah Artisans Gallery provides sales promotion and support for local and regional artists.”