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School site has seen many changes

HUNTING FOR HISTORY
By: Nancy Hagman, Colfax Record Correspondent
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It was 1894, construction workers plowed a road leading to recently acquired public property and the land was leveled for the new Colfax School. The street was named, appropriately, School Street. The community had simply outgrown the little two-room schoolhouse that had served the purpose since 1872. When the two-story Victorian was completed, the teacher lined up the students at the old school on Oak Street and marched them to the new facility. It had a distinctive cupola that housed a large school bell. However, the beautiful wood structure did not last long. Supposedly, the principal had been released and, in revenge, on August 24, 1912 the disgruntled man set fire to the building. The allegation could not be proven, so the sheriff never filed charges. A temporary school facility was offered in a building near the city hall, which, at that time, was located at the corner of Depot and Main streets. The Parent Teachers Association minutes show they moved their meetings, normally held at the schoolhouse, to the Gillen Hotel for the duration. Land was cleared just north of the burned school for a one-story structure of concrete block. All the materials, including the blocks, were manufactured locally. It consisted of four classrooms and offices for the principal and teachers. The school was dedicated in November 1923, and the site would later become the playing field for yet another school because, by 1936, the concrete was deteriorating and the building was condemned. Another source indicates there was a serious problem with mold. For the next few years, classes were held in city hall on Main Street and the Knights of Pythias hall at the corner of Main and Church Streets, in the building now owned by Connie Heilaman and the home of Connie?s D├ęcor. A New Deal, Works Progress Administration project started construction, in late January of 1936, on the Colfax Grammar School building that now occupies the School Street premise. The architecture became a distinct Art Deco style, popular in that period. It originally had a sweeping entrance. This was later removed to make room for the gymnasium and kitchen addition ? years not yet identified. In the 1980s the district made the determination that the school was sitting on an earthquake fault and deemed unsuitable as a school property. The location was shut down. From 1987 through 1992, school was held in temporary structures on the hill above Colfax High School on Ben Taylor Road, where the current ROP facilities are located. Finally, in 1992, the school ? now called Colfax Elementary School ? moved into a new facility at its current location on Ben Taylor Road west of town where the district office is also located. Thanks to the generosity of Carl Bianchini (see Colfax Record, April 21, 2011) the School Street complex now houses the Sierra Vista Community Center. A private school operation rents space in the complex, so technically there?s still a school on School Street.