The Historic Old School Café and Event Center on Highway 20 is emphasizing its past in its restaurant space while also stressing meeting rooms with the latest technology.

“Our AV equipment is just fabulous and it’s basically plug and play,” said Kierra Woekel, community engagement manager.

The Historic Old School is a 17,000-square-foot building on the Children’s Farm Home campus.

The structure was built in 1925, and the café and three conference rooms used to be classrooms for an orphanage facility.

The school building closed in 1978 and fell into disrepair. But it was remodeled and renovated starting in 2008 and opened to the public with the café, meeting rooms, a gift shop and museum in 2013.

“We’re a great place that’s right in the middle of Corvallis and Albany, and no one has to fight for parking,” Woekel said. And from Hewlett-Packard or Good Samaritan Regional Center, the Historic Old School is a shorter drive than downtown Corvallis, she added.

Many mid-Willamette Valley residents still aren’t aware of the facility, though. And Woekel wants to boost its profile, as proceeds from the café and event center go to help Trillium Family Services, which runs the Children’s Farm Home as a treatment center for children with mental and behavioral health disorders.

Inside the café, historic photographs of orphans who lived at the Children’s Farm Home now adorn the walls. The images, which were added about a month ago, show boys and girls out in the fields, and that’s appropriate given the emphasis on farm-to-table at the café.

“A lot of our produce comes straight from garden beds out back,” Woekel said. And clients at the farm home help maintain the fruits and vegetables.

Gloria Bible, the new head chef, stresses local-sourced and fresh fare, as well as fun and different options.

“Anything that you can find on our menu, you can’t find anywhere else,” she said. That includes a bacon macaroni and cheese pot pie, which is a hot seller, as well as a Devonshire turkey sandwich.

Dessert options include house-made mousse bites, which cost $2 each.

The café doesn’t have an exhaust system, so Bible has to get creative and can’t do any cooking that creates smoke. “There’s no frying, so everything is on the healthy side,” she said.

And Bible stressed that she developed vegan, vegetarian, gluten free and dairy free options for diners, and she’ll also cook for those with egg or butter allergies. (This includes groups at the conference center.)

The Historic Old School Café, 4455 NE Highway 20, is open from Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The final seating is at 1:30 p.m. each day.

Reservations are encouraged, but not required. For more information, call 541-754-5953.

The café’s food was well received with customers. So it was only natural when, about a year ago, the Historic Old School Event Center added catering to its offerings. The facility also can provide alcohol for events.

With those services, bookings have increased greatly, Woekel said.

“We actually don’t have a lot of conference space in Corvallis,” she said.

The three conference rooms can fit about 150 people, and two of the rooms can have their audio and visual equipment synched together.

Cork boards also adorn the walls, so decorations can easily be added for special events or information can be posted for work meetings.

For more information on the Historic Old School Event Center, call Woekel at 541-758-5950.

Servers at the café and conference center are volunteers, and Woekel said the facility always needs help.

Retired educator Judy Starnes, who worked in Corvallis and Albany school districts, volunteers at the café and for special events. She said she drove by the derelict building for years, then saw its rebirth.

“I knew the work they did,” Starnes said. “It’s a good cause and it’s healthy social activity for me.”

Tips at the facility are considered donations to Trillium Family Services.

For more information on both the Historic Old School Café and Conference Services Center, go to trilliumfamily.org/childrens-farm-home-historic-old-school/ or the Historic Old School Facebook page.

Kyle Odegard can be reached at kyle.odegard@lee.net, 541-812-6077 or via Twitter @KyleOdegard.

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