HISTORY OF THE OLD SCHOOL
1903 - 2010
In 1903, the opening of school in Cottonwood Falls, KS was postponed because of lack of suitable rooms for K-8 students. Some rooms at the High School were used, but this was still not sufficient for the number of students. Because of this, the school board placed a call in the newspaper for suitable sites to build a new school. On Nov. 12, 1903, “By a vote of 346 to 2, Cottonwood Falls school district, No. 6, voted to issue bonds in the amount of $10,000 to erect a new school building.” John Sanders and the Howard Estate offered property for $1200, later reduced to $1000. The location was described as “exactly in the center of Cottonwood Falls proper and is high enough so that a school building can be plainly seen from all parts of town.”
The contract for the new building was awarded to the firm of Rettiger and Norton…for the sum of $12,975. It was determined that it would face east and be of stone from the Rettiger Quarries east of Cottonwood Falls. It would be of Federal inspired design with two stories and a basement underneath half of it. It would have steam heat. Though the price was above the original amount, there was a “universal demand” to “build a good building” so the difference was accepted. The stonework for the first floor was completed by June of 1904 and the remainder of the building was completed and open for school to begin by Sept. 29 of 1904.
In June of 1915, when it was determined that the original building could not house all of the students, the citizens of Cottonwood Falls “by an overwhelming vote of 171 to 10” (as reported on June 3, 1915 in the Chase County Leader News) voted a bond issue for the addition. The bid was awarded to P. J. Norton of the original builders Rettiger and Norton Stone Company for $12,000. The building was to be completed by October 15. With furniture and equipment the total came to $28,000. The addition included 8 classrooms and a large auditorium. The building was planned to accommodate about 350 students.
The citizens supported a bond issue in 1939 for repairing the building and installing a new roof and new heating plant. Metal fire escapes on the exterior of the north and south faces were added at an unknown date.
A sympathetic addition was built to the rear of the building connected via a small, covered passageway in 1962. This single story addition, costing $195,000, included a gymnasium and stage, bathrooms, a cafeteria, classrooms and a large basement. At this time the 2nd story gym in the original building was converted to classrooms and then to a library and the stage (still elevated) to small meeting rooms.
In the 1990’s, to meet accessibility requirements, an elevator was added connecting the basement and 1st and 2nd floors. In order to accomplish this there were some minor room configuration changes and two front windows were closed. The connection to the gym, formerly only a covered walkway, was completely enclosed and ramped.
On September 29, 2004, the school’s 100th birthday was honored. The community celebrated with cake, hot dogs and lemonade, tours of the building and old fashioned games. The school was closed in 2010 and has been vacant since. While improvements were made through the years to the interior of the building, the basic layout remains the same. A student transported from 1915 would still be able to recognize the school interior which retains a high degree of architectural integrity with the interior woodwork, doors, floors and even some chalkboards remaining in place.