Restoration work has resumed on Corrales’ old schoolhouse next to Perea’s Restaurant and Tijuana Bar. Owner John Perea said June 17 he still expects the structure will be ready to open for community functions by this fall. A portion of the building was removed this spring so that a new wall could be built to better stabilize it. Perea said the adobe wall had been added in the 1940s to enclose a back porch, but it had not been adequately tied with a bond beam to secure it to the original structure.
Adobe restoration specialist Rick Catanach and his son, Luke Catanach, replaced the wall in mid-June. They have been involved in the project since it began. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXVIII No.8 June 8, 2019 “Old Schoolhouse Will Be Restored This Summer.”)
The old building served as Corrales’ schoolhouse from 1875 to 1925. At an earlier stage in the restoration, the original terrón walls (made of sod blocks) were stabilized, interior walls were restored and the old wooden floors were replaced as part of Perea’s project to return the school building as close as possible to its condition in the late 1800s. The structure served as a school for Corraleños at about the same time that the recently restored Casa Perea, farther north on Corrales Road just south of Ex Novo Brewery, was the Sandoval County courthouse. By some accounts, it was the first public school in Sandoval County.
Restoration of the old schoolhouse has been Perea’s goal since he acquired it in 2011. His late uncle, Bobby Perea, had lived in the house until shortly before his death in 2008.
He is proceeding with recommendations from a New Mexico MainStreet architect and those of his contractor, Catanach, “who specializes in restoring old terrón and adobe buildings from that period.”
Catanach said he admires the workmanship evident in the building’s construction. “If it hadn’t been built with terrónes, it probably wouldn’t have lasted this long.”
Perea said he intends to restore the space to what one would have encountered 120 years ago. “Its best use would be as a place where somebody could sit down and imagine what it would have been like as a classroom. The goal is to preserve the building itself.”
Interviewed in 2019, Perea anticipated a need for compromises to meet modern building codes. He was pleased with cooperation from the Village’s building inspector, the Planning and Zoning Department, MainStreet and the Corrales Historical Society. “I’ve been very happy with the reception to this project. They’re helping me achieve my vision for this property.”
For more than a year, he negotiated purchase of the property held in a family trust. Although the much older adjacent building with the restaurant has been owned by the Perea family for a long time, the schoolhouse was purchased by the Pereas in the late 1950s.
Once he has the basic restoration plan accomplished, Perea expects to apply for a listing on the State Register of Historic Properties, for both the school-house and the restaurant building. “We’re going to take our time to be sure everything works together,” he assured.
When it was a school, the interior was one large classroom. As a residence, it was divided into five rooms. The original school desks and other furnishings were removed in 1925 to use in the new school building nearby.
Perea expects the exterior walls will receive a mud plaster coating, similar to what covers the Old Church and its annex.
“We’ll get rid of the stucco there now and go back to mud. There are certain treatments we can use and —unlike the Old Church— we probably won’t have to re-do it for maybe 10 years.”
He hopes to furnish the building with period chairs and tables, if possible. He’ll hang historic photographs on the wall and perhaps even portraits of Corraleños who attended the school.