Over the weekend in Albion, Idaho an auction took place. The item up for bid? The historical campus of the once Southern Idaho College of Education (also known as the Albion State Normal School).
After a push by then Governor Len Jordan, in 1951 the Idaho State Legislature agreed to discontinue funding of the campus as well as what was at the time the North Idaho College of Education in Lewiston (now Lewis & Clark State College).
Since its closing, the campus has been the home of a few other institutions, but by and large it has been left to deteriorate.
Nestled against the hills at the entrance into Albion, the campus itself is not on a large plot of land, but is composed of six buildings, a few of which are 104 years old and are listed on the National Historic Register.
What has amazed me about the campus, other than its size because as a kid I thought it was much larger with more buildings than are actually there, is the lack of preservation that has taken place. I know the City of Albion has attempted on numerous occasions to restore the buildings with very limited funding, but all in all they have fallen into disrepair and many of them have serious structural and environmental problems. It seems to me that National Historic Register listings should be protected from this very thing, but unfortunately the campus is not protected.
I was relieved to learn that the auction was indeed successful in that the highest bidders turned out to be three Idahoans who have every intention of restoring and protecting the historic campus--unknown at this point is what the buyers intend to do with the campus once restored.
The Albion campus has always been a piece of Idaho history that I've never felt we should be at all proud of (similar, though not as severe, to how I feel about the Hunt Relocation Camp). The closing and degradation of the Albion campus stands as an ever present reminder of how little care and concern goes into the funding of education throughout the state.
A piece of Idaho history was purchased this weekend for a mere $810,000. I wonder what the cost will be when the dairy interests win out and purchase the site that once stood as a camp illustrating our racism after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.