7D School

Location: Villegreen vicinity
County: Las Animas County
Date Constructed: 1937
Built by: WPA

Description

The 7-D School is located on cattle-grazing land, and is a rectangular plan, single-story school building. The foundation and walls are constructed of sandstone. A front-gable roof covers to the building; the rafter tails are exposed. Tin panels currently cover the original wood shingle roof.

The locally-quarried stone is cut into quarry-faced ashlar blocksofroughlyuniform height, but varying length.The stone is laid in regular courses. The mortar joints are beaded, a decorative technique commonly found on WPA projects in southeast Colorado. The sandstone is multi-colored in hues of tan and red. At the corners of the building, the stone has been hand tooled to create a stippled effect. An exterior stone chimney is centered on the rear wall.

There are three large window opening on the south side; these are the only windows. The window openings are topped with segmental arches matching that used at the entrance. The windows rest directly on a stone course without separate sills. The rectangular windows are topped by stone blocks carved to fit within the arched top of the window opening.

Significance

The 7-D School, constructed in 1936-1937 under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) 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. Constructed by the WPA, the 7-D 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 7-D School meets Criterion A for its significance in the area of Education. The school is an excellent example of WPA 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.

The 7-D School meets Criterion C in the area of Architecture. It is a good example of WPA Rustic architecture as applied to a simple, one-room school building. The stonework displays the labor-intensive, hand-craftsmanship that typifies the work of the WPA in southeastern Colorado.

The period of significance is 1936-1949, beginning when the WPA began construction of the school and ending when the school was closed.

Historical Background

The population of eastern Las Animas County grew rapidly in the first few decades of the 20th century in response to new homesteading acts. 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. The dramatic rise in population led to the establishment of many new school districts. The 7-D School District (# 107) was one of ten school districts established in Las Animas County in 1919. Because of the difficulty of travel, and the fact that most students walked or rode horses to school, efforts were made to locate schools close enough that children would not have to travel more than five miles to school.

The Works Progress Administration (WPA), established in May 1935, constructed one-room schools at Bunker Hill, Long Ridge, 7-D, and Pleasant Valley. The 7-D school district submitted a WPA project proposal on August 6, 1936. It called for the demolition and reconstruction of their school building.  The stone from the existing building was to be reused for the new building.  Plans and specifications were prepared by the school district and J.M. Broan, a local WPA engineer. According to the proposal: “The present school building was laid up in mud and is about the collapse. The work . . . is necessary in order to insure a safe building in which the children may attend school.”  At this time, the school had an enrollment of approximately 25 students. The WPA approved the project on August 24, 1936.

Construction began in October 1936, but was suspended when it was determined that the stone from the old school was “unsatisfactory for use in new building.” On January 18, 1937, the district submitted a second project proposal to cover the additional construction costs associated with quarrying new stone. The district held classes in private homes while the construction was underway. The WPA approved the revised plans on March 25, 1937. The new school was completed June 2, 1937.

The school enrollment declined dramatically in the decade after its construction. By 1949, only five students, all from the same family, were enrolled. In September 1949, the 7-D School District board voted to consolidate with the Villegreen School District (#91). A special election was held for residents of the district to vote on consolidation. Consolidation was approved with 15 votes; there is no record of any votes against the consolidation. The Villegreen School District appears operated until 1958 when it consolidated with the Kim School District.

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