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Schools in Colorado by decade


Across the United States, as facilities age, technologies evolve, and curriculums transform, school districts face the decision about if and how to continue using their historic buildings. Recognizing the intrinsic cultural value of historic schools, the often unique character of their architectural design, and role as an anchor for historic neighborhoods, Colorado Preservation is working to make school preservation part of the educational facilities discussion.

The schools featured below are currently owned by school districts. There are many more historic school buildings across Colorado that have passed into other ownership.



Central Elementary School-Longmont
1870s
0.1% of Colorado School Buildings in Use
When Colorado became a state in 1876, there were 341 school districts and 217 school buildings (with many districts using temporary facilities). Central Elementary is the only Colorado school building from the decade that continues to serve as a school. Its substantial construction reflects the affluence of the community. Most Colorado children at the time were studying in one-room schools quickly constructed of adobe, log, frame, or local stone.

Dora Moore Elementary School-Denver
1880s
0.4% of Colorado School Buildings in Use
19th century school buildings tend reflect the popular styles commonly used for other building types including residences, churches, and public buildings. As the Colorado developed, its school buildings became more ornate, including decorative pitched roofs, arched windows, pronounced cornices, and prominent towers. High style schools of the decade were generally two or more stories. Notable school buildings from the decade include the Community Prep Charter School in Colorado Springs and Mapleton Elementary in Boulder.

Cantril Administration Building-Castle Rock
1890s
0.3% of Colorado School Buildings in Use
Schools constructed in the 1890s vary little from those built in the 1880s. Some of the Victorian influence waned, with greater emphasis on the con-struction of a rectangular building with a prominent central entrance, indicated by projecting central towers or pediments. The Progressive Movement began focusing its attention on educational reform, pushing to make public education more widely available and democratic.


Centennial High School-Fort Collins

1900s
1.3% of Colorado School Buildings in Use
By 1900, the Colorado school system served nearly 120,000 children, over a 100,000 more than in 1875. Rising enrollment stimulated the construc-tion of 126 school buildings in 1900. Reformers were increasingly emphasizing the physical plant as the basis of a successful school practice. National architectural research and publication increasingly influenced every aspect of the school building. Notable buildings constructed in this decade include Central High in Pueblo, University Hill Elementary in Boulder, and Mancos High in Mancos.



Durango Administration Building-Durango

1910s
1.7% of Colorado School Buildings in Use
Progressive Era reforms resulted in the improved quality of rural education and facilities, increased use of public school grounds and buildings by the entire community for a wide variety of functions, and mandated expanded curricula offerings that necessitated special rooms and facilities, such as science laboratories, kindergartens, and manual training rooms, not seen be-fore in school buildings. Classical Revival elements including symmetrical facades, columns, ornate cornice lines were popular features of school design. Notable buildings from the decade include the Shanner Elementary in Holly, and Bill Reed Middle School in Loveland.



Madison Elementary School-Cañon City

1920s
4.6% of Colorado School Buildings in Use
Secondary education enjoyed increasing prominence in Colorado during the 1920s. Colorado only had one high school when the territory earned statehood in 1876, but by the mid 1920s there were nearly 200 four-year high schools. High school campuses expanded to include large gymnasiums and auditoriums, as well as room for an increasing number of industrial, business, and commercial subjects. Notable buildings from the decade include the Delta Academy of Applied Learning in Delta, Fremont Middle School in Florence, and La Junta Middle School in La Junta.


Fruita Middle School-Fruita
1930s
2.4% of Colorado School Buildings in Use
The majority of school facilities constructed during the years of the Great Depression were funded by New Deal Programs. The CWA, PWA, and WPA were responsible for building new schools and gymnasiums across Colorado, as well as improving existing schools and playgrounds. Popular styles for New Deal Schools in Colorado include Rustic, Spanish Revival, Art Deco, and Modernist. Notable buildings of the decade include the Kim Schools, Boulder High School, and the Nucla Schools.

East Otero Early Education Center-La Junta

1940s
2.7% of Colorado School Buildings in Use
During the 1940s, the reaction against the ornate architectural styles of the late 19th and early 20th century first seen in the 1930s continued to develop. Streamlined styles such as Art Deco, Art Moderne, and the International style with their simplicity of design, clean lines, and lack of ornamentation were becoming the norm. Notable buildings from this decade include Palmer High in Colorado Springs, Underwood Elementary in Del Norte, and Sobesky Academy in Lakewood.


Red Rocks Elementary School-Morrison

1950s
15.6% of Colorado School Buildings in Use
The 1950s marked a dramatic shift to simpler, less ornamented school designs. Mid-century schools emphasized child-scaled, friendly, flexible spaces, as well as indoor/outdoor spaces and large bands of windows to provide natural light in the classroom. New schools were constructed at a rapid pace to keep up with the baby boom and new suburban development. Notable buildings from this decade include Cory Elementary in Denver, Red Rocks Elementary in Morrison, and Mann Middle School in Colorado Springs.