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Fruidale School PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bob Olsen   
Tuesday, 30 May 2006
10801 W. 44TH AVE

Jefferson County School District #32 was formed in 1883. James A. Lewis and Jacob H. Brown donated the land for a school, each giving half. Since then schools were built and rebuilt on that site that is known by the name of Fruitdale.

Many times farmers donated land for school and church purposes. In the case of Fruitdale Mr. Lewis and Mr. Brown included a Reverter Clause; “…said land hereby conveyed being for school purposes and if at any time the same shall cease to be used for said purposes, the land hereby conveyed shall revert to the grantors as in their first and former estate”. This guaranteed that the property would always be used for educational purposes.

It is also of interest that James A. Lewis was instrumental in forming the Clear Creek Baptist Church. His home was recently razed for multi-family dwellings. However his son’s home still exists and is located on the northern part of the James H. Baugh homestead. Arthur Lewis erected that home in 1898.

The little school, built in 1884 was known as Vasquez School. This one-room log building was used until the transition to a two-room brick structure took place in 1901. Disaster struck in December of 1926 when the school was destroyed by fire. However, a determined faculty kept classes in operation in two churches until the new school was built and completed. A little known architect designed that school in April of 1927. He became famous for designing over 300 buildings in Colorado; his name, Temple Buell.

The 1927 school still stands with 3 additions distinguished by the two different colors from the school’s original brick. All the additions where built after Jefferson County R1 School District incorporated.

The new school was built directly over the old foundation of the 1901 school, as shown in Temple Buell’s architectural drawings at the Denver Public Library. The school consisted of 6 original classrooms and a boys’ bathroom and girls’ bathroom on the main floor. The second floor had 2 classrooms and a kitchen on one side of the building and an Assembly Room across the hall complete with a stage and dressing rooms. This room was used as a gymnasium, auditorium, and a cafeteria. Fruitdale was one of the first schools to offer hot lunches. The custodian’s family, The Urtons, occupied the side with the kitchen and 2 classrooms. The family moved to the little cottage after the attendance grew to necessitate the use of the upper floor for students.

The building is constructed of concrete, brick, and steel beams, with wood windows and trim. The red brick gives the building a notable appearance. The blond brick addition in the rear of the building was original to the 1901 building and is still used for the heating plant. The old coal-burning boiler was updated and reused in the new building as were 12 of the 1901 radiators.

Students occupied the school in September of 1927. The site has been in continued use as an educational facility over 123 years educating Jefferson County students. Most recently, it was used as the Jefferson County Preschool. The Original school and its additions are to be razed for a new preschool building to be built on the rear of the property but not on the original one acre. The plan as presented to the community on May 24, 2006 is to use the acre with the Reverter clause as a parking lot.

The Wheat Ridge Historical Society continues in their effort to preserve this building. We are currently in the process of preserving this historic building. We will be working closely with the Jefferson County School District to have it declared a Wheat Ridge local landmark. We are hoping to partnership with Jefferson County Historical Commission and other County Historical Societies to decide the best use of this wonderful building to benefit all of Jefferson County and still stay true to the Reverter Clause in the original deed. It was submitted to the Colorado Preservation Inc. in 2005, but was not included in the most endangered places list. However, the Wheat Ridge Historical Society has resubmitted the application and it is again being considered.

Click here to learn more about Temple H. Buell and the Fruitdale School.

Click here to see a timeline of the Fruitdale School.

Last Updated ( Monday, 05 September 2011 )
© 2017 Wheat Ridge Historical Society