Saturday, February 20, 2010

Longmont Then And Now #13: Bryant School (1891-1959)

Three grade schools were built in Longmont between 1878 and 1906; the first and third are still standing, including Columbine mentioned last week. The middle one, called the Bryant School has been gone for fifty years.

An invitation to bid was put out to contractors in February 1891 for the construction of a four-room school house (the "Bryant School") on "Block 18", bounded by 7th Avenue (now Longs Peak) to the south, Emery to the west, and Collyer to the east:

The school contract was awarded to local builder M. W. Barb in April, at a cost of $12,045. The blue sandstone cornerstone (quarried from the Sandstone Ranch area) of the school was laid on July 6, 1891 by Grand Master Ernest Le Neve Foster of Georgetown, from the Colorado Masonic Lodge. At this time, some sealed historic artifacts were placed in the cornerstone which were recovered 68 years later when the building was torn down. More on this later.

The excellent Longmont Museum photo archives has a few pictures of the Bryant School (notice the cornerstone at the bottom left):

As you can see, this building was much more than just a simple four-room school house. The accompanying museum description to these pictures describes the school as being built in the tradition of Richardsonian Romanesque, with its arches and the turret in the front.

Bryant was used for grades 1 through 6 for children living on the east side of town. School crowding was a problem even back then, and the Bryant School basement had to be turned into a classroom, despite its known unhealthful effects (likely because the coal furnace was down there). In 1900, its class sizes were 45, 53, 39, 64, and 55!

The Bryant School had an uneasy history and many doubted its future, even back in the 1920's. In 1908, two ornamental carved-rock bears, weighing hundreds of pounds, crashed to the ground from the building's facade. Luckily nobody was injured or killed. In 1916, a severe crack was discovered on one of its outside walls, which started the thinking that the building was unsafe and close to condemnation. A $250,000 school bond was put on the ballot in 1922 with its supporters wanting to use part of the money to completely tear down the school and build a new one on the same site. The voters, however, rejected the bond. Longmont Mayor Ralph R. Price (1961-1969) was a Bryant student at the time and would later recall the ongoing dialogue about the school being unsafe.

The Bryant School was finally closed in 1946 and the school district sold the land to an apartment developer in 1958. It was torn down in March 1959 but not before there was an historic opening of the cornerstone by a team led by Billy Boyles of the Longmont Museum. On March 3, an air-tight metal box from 1891 was extracted from the cornerstone and opened. Included in its contents were:
  • A three-page handwritten history of the Longmont School District written by future Longmont Mayor John A. Buckley (1892-1894)
  • An issue of the June 24, 1891 Longmont Times newspaper
  • A 20-page booklet describing school rules and curriculum: The three R's were stressed, along with the Greek language.
  • A July 3, 1891 issue of the Longmont Ledger newspaper
  • Volume 1, Number 1 of the Burlington Free Press newspapers, from April 26, 1874.
  • Two coins, one from France (1855), and a "bartering coin" from 1747.
I haven't checked but I'm guessing that all of this material is still preserved in the archives of the museum.

A last picture of the Bryant School from the Times-Call, as it was being razed in March 1959 (notice that the cornerstone is ripped out):

Today, the Bryant School site is occupied by an apartment building and some duplexes, which were built in 1960. The apartments at the SW corner of Longs Peak and Emery (the Bryant School was set back much further from the street):

A new street, Darby Court, was added as part of the 1960 development, separating the apartment building and the duplexes. The street is named after John H. Darby, the developer of the property.

It's still a mystery to me about who the Bryant School was named after. I'll post an update when I find out!

A summary of the informal "Longmont: Then and Now" series so far:

1 comment:

lalapapawawa said...

The apartment buildings just don't hold a candle to the school architecture, but I guess you've got to give them credit, as pieces of the apartment buildings probably don't fall off the structures either.