Bent County High School

Year Listed: 2004
County: Bent County
Construction Date: 1913
Threat When Listed: Demolition
Status: IN PROGRESS
 

One of the threats facing many historic schools is the tendency for communities to build new public school campuses far from the center of town, typically in outer-ring suburbs.  Older neighborhood schools are abandoned, often without a new use in sight.  The challenge facing many histoirc schools is finding a new compatible use.  This is the threat facing the historic Bent County High School.  Constructed in 1913, the school was attended by U.S. Ambassador Llewellyn Thompson (an expert on Soviet affairs who served under President John F. Kennedy during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis); Ken Curtis (“Festus” of the long-running television series Gunsmoke); and author James Michener’s wife, Mari (Sabusawa) Michenerl. In addition to its association with significant persons, the school is known for its imposing, three-story, massive-columned architecture. Believed eligible for the National State Register of Historic Places, the now empty school was designed by Swedish architect James Larson in the neoclassical style with construction completed by Nels T. Nelson.

The school has been vacant for ten years, and this architecturally and historically significant building is home to pigeons rather than teachers and students.  Interior chalkboards and doors have been scavenged, but the beautiful stamped tin ceiling remains as testament to time when schools were deemed worthy of thoughtful and beautiful architectural detail.  The structure itself is sound and it is easy to imagine the school being reborn as one of the finest structures in Las Animas.

The Las Animas School Board and Bent County Commissioners are currently in discussion regarding the use of the site as a community and senior center.  Plans include reusing the later PWA section of the building, but the 1913 neoclassical portion seen in the pictures above will be demolished.  Fortunately, the School Board is open to viable alternative reuse plans, but time is short.

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Featured Project

4 Bar 4 Ranch

Homesteaded in 1895 by Dick McQueary to provide a stop for the Georgetown Stage Line, the 320-acre 4 Bar 4 Ranch has strong ties to Grand County and Colorado's heritage. The Georgetown Stage Line traveled on the road through the 4 Bar 4 Ranch from Idaho Springs to Hot Sulphur Springs over Berthoud Pass. In 1895 a roadhouse and stage stop were constructed on the ranch. The hotel and barn were constructed using trees from the Ranch property, and the hotel remained open for travelers coming over Berthoud Pass by horseback and wagon until 1913. With the coming of the automobile, the roadway over Berthoud Pass and through the 4 Bar 4 Ranch was considered an integral part of the Trans-Continental “Midland Trail” highway. Following the closing of the stage line, the ranch continued to host travelers until 1912 or 1913 when it was purchased and converted into a Ford Motor Company . Ford vehicles were sold here until 1917, when Harry Larkin purchased the ranch site. Today emergency efforts are underway to ensure it survives through the winter. Donations are in need. To learn more, contact Jennifer Orrigo Charles at jorrigocharlges@coloradopreservation.org.

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