White School and Barn

Location: Kim vicinity
County: Las Animas County
Date Constructed: 1938
Built by: WPA

Description

The White School is located southwest of Kim. It is located at the northeast corner of the intersection of County Road 191 and County Road 30. Both are rural, dirt roads with limited traffic. An associated barn is located to the north of the school. A ranch house (circa 1970) lies to the west on the opposite side of the road. The school is surrounded by open range land and the barn and house are the only buildings within site of the school.

The White School faces south. The rectangular plan building measures 50’ x 24’. The foundation and walls are constructed of sandstone. The quarry-faced blocks of sandstone are laid in regular courses. The stones of are roughly uniform in height but vary in width. The gable ends are frame, covered by vertical wood boards. The side gable roof is covered with corrugated metal panels.

The school is five bays wide. The easternmost two bays of the building were an addition constructed by the WPA; the addition measures 12’ x 24’. The stone work of the addition is similar to the original. The mortar is more prominent on the addition with somewhat sloppily applied mortar covering much more of the rock face. However, the joints of the WPA addition have beading along the center of the joints, apparently in an effort to neaten the appearance of the rough mortaring. Similar beaded mortar joints can be found on many other WPA projects in Las Animas County.

There are no openings on the north and west sides of the school. On the west end of the south side there is a single door opening filled with a wooden door. There are also five large window openings on the south side. The window openings are covered with corrugated panels. On the original section of the school, the window openings originally held six-over-six, wood-framed sash windows. These are mostly intact behind the exterior window coverings. On the WPA addition, there are one-over-one, wood-framed sash windows behind the exterior coverings. Another door opening is located on the south end of the east wall. There are two brick chimneys on the gable ridge: one at the east end of the building and one closer to the center.

On the interior the building is divided into two rooms, corresponding to the original school and the WPA addition. A wide doorway that once held double French doors connects the two rooms. The original wood floors are largely intact. The walls are covered with plaster. Sections of the original beaded ceiling board are intact, elsewhere the wooden ceiling beams are exposed. A small closet and kitchen equipment have been installed in the WPA section.

A single-story, rectangular plan barn is located on north of the White School.  The barn measures 60’ x 14’. The foundation and walls are constructed of sandstone. The quarry-faced blocks of sandstone are laid in regular courses of varying heights. The mortar joints are heavy with beading along the center of the joints. The side gable roof is covered with sheets of corrugated metal. The wood framing of the roof is exposed on the interior; it rests directly on the stone walls.

There is a single window opening centered on the west wall. The opening is not glazed. A hinged wooden panel on can be lifted up to cover the opening. There are no openings on the north or east sides of the building. On the south side, there is a small enclosed room (intended for coal storage) at the west end with a single-width door opening containing a wood door. The remaining roughly ¾ of the south side is an open stabling area with no exterior stone wall; four wood posts support the southern edge of the roof. The barn is similar in design to CWA and WPA barns constructed at Andrix, Cedar Hill, and Prairie Star.

Significance

The White School, constructed in 1921 and expanded in 1936 under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) is being nominated under the New Deal Resources on Colorado’s Eastern Plains Multiple Property Documentation Form (MPDF).  The White School meets the registration requirements of one property types delineated in the MPDF: Educational Buildings (subtype:  Primary and Secondary School Facilities).

The White School meets Criterion A in the area of Social History for its association with President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal legislative agenda to rescue the United States from the Great Depression. This agenda included the creation of an unprecedented number of policies, programs, and agencies to provide relief, employment, conserve natural resources, and assist in construction of public works—all with the greater goal of stimulating the devastated economy. Constructed by the WPA, the Pleasant Valley School presents an important record of the federal relief programs administered in Colorado’s eastern plains during the Great Depression. Though the dire economic conditions of the Depression affected all of Colorado, drought and dust storms hit the agricultural-based economy of the Eastern Plains especially hard. The construction of the school provided much-needed employment in an isolated, rural area of Las Animas County where little other work was available.

Additionally, the Pleasant Valley School meets Criterion A for its significance in the area of Education. The school is an excellent example of the one-room schools constructed in eastern Las Animas County during the homesteading boom of the 1910s and 1920s.  The school and its adjacent WPA-constructed barn are also excellent examples of New Deal efforts to improve rural education facilities in eastern Las Animas County. The WPA constructed new schools and barns for several rural school districts and repaired the facilities of many others. This building, constructed for a small school district with minimal matching funds, reflects WPA efforts to improve education and to help small communities with limited resources. School barns intended to store coal for the school and shelter student’s horses during the school day are a New Deal resource that, at least within eastern Colorado, are unique to Las Animas County. CWA and WPA constructed school barns have been located at Shadel, Andrix, Cedar Hill, and Prairie Hill. There are no records for the construction of similar structures in any other eastern Colorado counties.

The White School meets Criterion C in the area of Architecture. It is a good  example of WPA Rustic architecture as applied to a simple school barn building and a school addition. The similarity of the stonework of the original school building and the WPA addition shows how WPA construction in the county drew strongly on local building traditions. The stonework displays the labor-intensive, hand-craftsmanship associated with the WPA. This craftsmanship is particularly characteristic of projects from rural Las Animas county since there was little access to construction machinery or pre-fabricated materials. The WPA work crew was responsible for quarrying and finishing all the stone used in the building. Most of the WPA crew would have been farmers or ranchers with little previous construction experience who would have learned the necessary masonry skills on the job.

The period of significance begins in 1921 with the construction of the White School and ends in 1936 with the completion of the WPA addition and barn.

Historical Background

The population of eastern Las Animas County grew rapidly in the first few decades of the 20th century. Land was available through various Homestead Acts including 1916 legislation that opened up land for ranching. In 1900, Las Animas County had a population of 21,842. By 1910, the population had grown to 33,643 and in 1920 was 38,975. Proponents of dryland farming urged homesteaders into areas previously believed unsuitable for agriculture. Initially the homesteaders had success with higher than average rainfall in the 1920s.

As the homesteaders arrived in the county, they established many new school districts. Fifteen districts were established from 1900-1909, thirty-six districts were established from 1910-1919, and fifteen districts were established from 1920-1929. The White School district was established in 1921. The original stone school building was likely constructed at this time. The White School district, like the many other rural districts established in the 1910s and 1920s, provided education for children living on isolated farms and ranches. The high number of districts represents the fact that children could not reasonably travel more than five miles to school. Thus many small districts were scattered across the eastern Las Animas County. Children would attend first through eighth grades in these one-room schools. A typical school might have just ten to fifteen students.

In the 1930s, these small school districts were suffering. Already limited in resources due to their small size, the drought, dust storms, and Depression of the 1930s hit the districts hard. Many homesteaders were defaulting on loans and could not pay school taxes. The harsh conditions of the 1930s drove other homesteaders out, reducing the number of residents supporting the schools. By 1940, the population of Las Animas County had been reduced to 32,369. By 1950, it was just 25,902.

New Deal programs first assisted these rural school districts under the Civil Works Administration (CWA). The CWA was organized in late 1933. Designed to be a public works program that could put people to work quickly, the CWA provided immediate relief to help people through the winter of President Roosevelt’s first year in office. Jobs were typically small, since the projects were intended to last only 90 days. In eastern Las Animas County there were many projects to improve roads and rural schools. School projects included repairing existing school facilities, constructing gymnasiums at Branson and Kim, and building a barn for the Prairie Star School.

The Works Progress Administration (WPA), established in May 1935, would continue efforts to both improve schools and provide jobs in rural Las Animas County. The WPA was the major source of public jobs for the unemployed during the latter part of the thirties. Its main goal was to put the unemployed back to work and off of the relief rolls. “Small useful projects” were designed to provide employment for a maximum number of needy “employable” workers in the “shortest time possible.”  These jobs were especially vital in rural Las Animas County where there was no other work available for the farmers and ranchers devastated by drought. The WPA funded numerous road and school projects in eastern Las Animas in order to provide jobs. In most areas, the WPA required that local sponsors of projects provide at least 20 percent of the project funding. That appears to have been often waived in this area where the need was so desperate. The WPA constructed one-room schools at Bunker Hill, Long Ridge, 7-D, and Pleasant Valley.

The White School district submitted a WPA project proposal (No. 65-84-1217) for the construction of a school addition and horse shed on August 31, 1935. The application simply stated that “shed and addition very badly needed.” The cost of the project was $2,315. The federal government contributed $1974 and the White School district $340. According to the application, the WPA Planning Board had prepared the plans for the project.

The WPA approved the project on September 20, 1935. Work seems to have begun soon after. The WPA paid unskilled laborers $44 per month. Mason helpers, plaster helpers, and truck drivers were paid $50 per month. Masons, carpenters, plasterers, and painters received $63 per month. The timekeeper earned $108 per month and the foreman $120 per month. The project employed an average of 25 men per month. The project was completed by February 1936. A project inspector described the work as “a fair job.”

The property owner does not know when children last attended school in the building. Jack Goode, her father, taught at the White School in the 1940s and 1950s. Her father had arrived in the area in 1926 when his family moved from Texas to homestead the land currently owned by his daughter.  By the 1960s, the White School had become a community building and was used for gatherings of the Sunshine Needleworkers, a local sewing club, till around 1970. Since then the building has been used for storage.

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