By Ted Shorack

The Bulletin

A former schoolhouse in the small community of Antelope has received national recognition for its historical significance.

The Antelope school building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places last month for its architecture, size in comparison with other rural schools and for offering primary and secondary education until 1936.

Students were pulled out of the school in the early 1980s when followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, an Indian guru, took control of city government and the school district after establishing a commune community 20 miles outside of the city in 1981.

The schoolhouse is owned by the city and serves as a city hall and community center for the small town in southeast Wasco County, which is about 75 miles north of Bend. Meetings and community events are still held at the building. A listing on the national register provides more grant opportunities and tax credits.

“Now we’re trying to get grants and scholarships to put it back to how it originally looked,” Laura Taylor, the city community center director, said Thursday.

The city and the surrounding area have fewer than 50 residents. The schoolhouse was built in 1925 and had four classrooms and a gymnasium, making it unique among other rural schools in Oregon, which were typically one-room schools, according to the nomination for listing the building.

The school was built with concrete in the Classical Revival-style, with a parapet, or low wall, along the edge of the roof, tall front windows and a portico, or porch. The style was not common among rural schools. Most were wooden schoolhouses.

Elementary and high school students attended the school. It lost its certification as a high school in 1936 when it had only one instructor for the older students. At its height, the city of Antelope never had more than 250 residents.

About 2,000 Rajneesh followers began to move to the Big Muddy Ranch outside Antelope in 1981. They called their community Rajneeshpuram. They began to clash with state and local officials. Nearby ranchers and city residents began sending their children to schools in Madras, and the Antelope school was no longer certified by 1983. The guru’s followers outnumbered locals and voted to change the city’s name to Rajneesh.

The commune began to dissolve after Rajneesh and top leaders pleaded guilty to federal crimes in the mid-1980s.

A water pipe broke in the school building during the winter of 2010 and caused about $100,000 in damage. The interior has been repaired since then.

The building was placed on Oregon’s Most Endangered Places list in 2013 by Restore Oregon, a statewide historic preservation organization. The list is used by the organization to generate public interest in restoring historic places. The schoolhouse was removed from the list prior to the national register listing after the organization decided locals would be able to move forward with preserving the structure.

Taylor said the former school and now community center has pool tables, dart boards and other activities. The city would like to have it be a place for children to use regularly during the winter, she said. The community is also planning to do a monthly potluck at the center. An annual harvest dinner is held at the school during Thanksgiving.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820,