Schools in Las Animas: Bent County High School

Year listed: 2004

County: Bent County

Status: ALERT

Context: Education

Date Constructed:  1913

Significance:

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 (born Curtis Gates), “Festus” of the long-running television series Gunsmoke; and author James Michener’s wife, Mari (Sabusawa) Michener are former students of the old Bent County High School. 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 in 1913.

Threat When Listed:

Demolition

Since Listing:

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 – work is expected to begin on the community center by summer of 2010.

Last Update: October 2009

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