Restoration begins on historic Ouray County building
COLONA — Restoration has begun on the historic Colona School, a structure with a legacy built by the people who walked its halls for the past 94 years.
In the first phase of restoration, work on the exterior doors, windows and roof should be completed by the end of the summer, according to Harry Loss, grange master of Colona Grange 259, which is a chapter of a national community service organization for rural areas.
The work is being funded by a grant of almost $254,000 from the State Historical Fund to Colona Grange 259.
Colona Grange 259 purchased the building in 1963 and has rented it to groups for civic and social functions. The building is home to the Ouray County Ranch History Museum, which leases two classrooms for museum exhibits.
“The building itself is in excellent shape as far as structurally,” Loss said.
The improvements will include the installation of a large steel beam in the building’s roof for reinforcement.
Farmers, ranchers and businessmen serving Los Piños Indian Agency, Fort Crawford south of Montrose and mining camps near Ouray and the northern San Juan Mountains settled Colona in the late 1870s.
The community passed a bond to build the school in 1915 when it faced a decision to send students to Montrose or not provide them a high school education.
The Colona School was proclaimed “the finest schoolhouse for a town this size in the state” and one of the finest school buildings on the Western Slope by the Montrose Daily Press when the building was dedicated on Jan. 7, 1916, according to a State Historical Fund news release.
From 1915 through 1927, the school served students in grades one through 12, then grades one through eight until 1948, when school districts were consolidated and the building was closed.
In 2006, Colorado Preservation Inc. listed the Colona School as one of the state’s 10 most endangered historic sites. The State Historical Fund, a program of History Colorado and the Colorado Historical Society, awards grants to public and nonprofit organizations to preserve Colorado’s architectural and archaeological artifacts for public benefit.
Partially funded by lottery revenue, State Historical Fund grants have helped preserve historic schools, town halls, agricultural sites and other structures, awarding more than $211 million to nearly 3,300 projects, according to the news release.
People seeking information on the schoolhouse restoration can call Loss at 970-258-4918.
Vintage Tea, an annual historical-themed party, will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. May 1. It is a fundraiser for the restoration.