It’s that time of year when first-day-of-school posts are everywhere and fall is in the air. Halloween books are already on display at the library. In celebration of the start of school, it’s also time to celebrate Colorado’s many beautiful, historic schools listed in the National Register of Historic Places and State Register of Historic Properties.
Bent County High School
1214 Ambassador Thompson Boulevard, Las Animas, Bent County
Constructed in 1914 and expanded in 1939 through New Deal programs, the Bent County High School is a distinctive example of 1910s school design in the Classical Revival style on Colorado’s eastern plains and the 1930s Works Progress Administration Moderne style. The school was attended by U.S. Ambassador Llewellyn Thompson, expert on Soviet affairs under President John F. Kennedy during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, as well as actor Ken Curtis, better known as “Festus” on the television series Gunsmoke. The school remained active through the late 1990s, when it experienced a period of vacancy. Subsequently, the Colorado State Historical Fund funded a Historic Structure Assessment and the Colorado Brownfields Foundation assisted the community with a repurposing strategy. The county then received a $96,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for removal of asbestos and pigeon guano. Partial redevelopment will house community meeting rooms and a kitchen for the local 4H program, as well as space for afterschool programs.
Eads School Gymnasium
Eads, Kiowa County
The 1929 Eads School Gymnasium housed physical education and school athletic teams, as well as domestic science, music, and drama classes. The building was designed in the Mission style by Colorado Springs architect Elmer E. Nieman. The gymnasium provided a venue for most local community social and civic activities through 1963, the year a new high school was constructed. Kiowa County School District RE-1 has received Colorado State Historical Fund and Department of Local Affairs funding to replace roofs, complete a Historic Structure Assessment, restore windows, and complete construction documents.
(Photo courtesy Eads High School collection, undated)
Cortez High School
Cortez, Montezuma County
Also known as the Calkins School, Cortez High School was constructed in three phases (1909, 1924, 1935), reflecting the community’s growing population as well as targeted periods of public investment in education in Montezuma County. The 1935 expansion was funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which replicated original details such as the arched entrance while simultaneously restyling the building by removing the original bell tower and hipped roof, resulting in a more simple design common to WPA projects. In addition to its important role in local education, the school building is important as a local example of the WPA Rustic Style. Calkins School has received several Colorado State Historical Fund grants for a Historic Structure Assessment, construction documents, and interior and exterior rehabilitation.
The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archeological resources.
For more information on rural school buildings throughout Colorado, visit:
For more information on historic schools across the country, visit the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places Back to School features at: https://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/school/index.htm
Check out the Heritage Diversity Initiative, seeking to raise awareness and map information about Colorado’s diverse communities through crowdsourcing:
— Astrid Liverman, National and State Register Coordinator