Michael Oppenheim

Michael Oppenheim
Barry and Sandra Bearden’s sky-high Mountain Air retreat blends green construction with contemporary style

Throughout Western North Carolina sit dozens of public schools abandoned by time, consolidation, and changing demographics. In their heyday, they were community epicenters and veritable second homes for thousands of students. Today, some are boarded up, while others await imminent demolition and replacement by new state-of-the-art facilities. But there are also a handful of old schoolhouses tucked away in various corners of the mountains that have found new purpose as community centers, concert venues, historical beacons, and artists’ studios. Here’s a look at the past and present of eight of them.

Throughout Western North Carolina sit dozens of public schools abandoned by time, consolidation, and changing demographics. In their heyday, they were community epicenters and veritable second homes for thousands of students. Today, some are boarded up, while others await imminent demolition and replacement by new state-of-the-art facilities. But there are also a handful of old schoolhouses tucked away in various corners of the mountains that have found new purpose as community centers, concert venues, historical beacons, and artists’ studios. Here’s a look at the past and present of eight of them.

Harboring troves of curiosities, such as dwarfed turtles and carnivorous plants, bogs are among the most imperiled habitats in the mountains. Today, conservationists are bringing these fascinating and rare ecosystems back from the brink in hopes of creating the first national wildlife refuge in Western North Carolina.