Owners work to save historic school
Most visitors to the Colona School and Grange only have one thing to say upon entering the imposing historic landmark.
“It’s just such an atmosphere,” Jane Bennett said. “You can almost hear little children’s feet running up and down the stairs. It’s very evocative.”
Bennett is helping to spearhead a grassroots effort to save the nearly 100-year-old building, about 15 miles from Montrose. The Colona School, designated a Colorado State Historic Site and Ouray County Historic Site in 2000, has fallen into disrepair and needs a new roof, new windows and security and fire alarm systems, just to name a few, Bennett said.
The building was placed in the top 10 of Colorado’s most endangered places list by Colorado Preservation, Inc., in 2006, she said.
The owners of the building, the Colona Grange No. 259, were awarded a $250,000 grant from the Colorado Historical Society to repair the building, Bennett said, but must raise 15 percent, or $85,000, by Feb. 1 to secure the grant.
A fundraiser held at the school Sunday kicked off the organization’s effort to raise the money, Bennett said, and raised about $2,000 with nearly 300 people in attendance.
“It was all in small bills, too,” Bennett said. “There is still a long way to go though.”
The Colona School was built in 1916, Bennett said, and was the “educational showpiece of the Western Slope.” The school, which taught grades one through 12 for 11 years, was built larger than necessary in anticipation of growth in Colona.
“The future looked very rosy back then,” Bennett said.
Successful cattle, logging, mining and farming industries were headquartered in Colona, Bennett said, but the one-two punch of the Great Depression and World War II stunted the town’s growth to an unrecoverable point.
The building was shuttered as a school in 1948 and converted into a community center by its new owners, the Colona Grange No. 259, a community engagement organization.
The grant will pay for the most pressing needs of the building, according to a structure assessment from 2003, Bennett said, but won’t cover everything.
“The $250,000 grant is just phase one,” she said. “But people up and down the valley are alums and want to see this school preserved.”
Donations can be mailed to Colona Grange, 1438 County Rd. 906, Montrose, CO 81401.