February 15, 2016
Cover Photo: Richard Collier 2005
The two-and-a-half story Churchill School is the oldest public school remaining in Cheyenne. The tan brick masonry building was built in 1911, with a wing comprising a gymnasium/auditorium and six classrooms added in 1951. With its solid masonry construction and simple Classical design, the school building reﬂects the importance that early 20th century residents of Cheyenne attached to places of learning. The original school building was the ﬁrst of many schools designed by prominent Cheyenne architect William Dubois, who incorporated design features promoted by educational reformers of the early 20th century such as wide hallways, high ceilings and plenty of natural light. The original building contained four large, well-lit classrooms on each ﬂoor and the basement.
According to a local resident whose father worked on the building in the 1930s, the school was originally built without plumbing and students used outhouses behind the building until indoor plumbing was added in the 1930s. The 1951 addition was designed by Cheyenne architect Morris Kemper.
Churchill School was used as an elementary school until 2005, when it was closed by the school district and students were transferred to a new elementary school near F.E. Warren Air Force Base. The building was purchased by Peak Wellness Center for its youth and family facility. The facility reopened in 2009 after an extensive renovation.
Although the school building had been remodeled several times and many original features had been removed, Peak Wellness made an effort to preserve what remained, especially the maple wood baseboards, door and window surrounds, transoms, and doors. These features, along with the high ceilings, large windows and wide corridors, give the interior the look and feel of a historic school building. To update the building, new heating, plumbing and electrical systems were installed, plaster was removed and replaced with drywall, windows were replaced, and large classrooms were divided into offices and meeting rooms. The space formerly occupied by small teachers’ offices was used for installation of an elevator. The 1951 addition was also renovated and is used for a reception/meeting area, offices, and consultation rooms.
Peak Wellness director David Birney said that the nonproﬁt organization chose Churchill School because of its prime location in a neighborhood close to downtown, where most of its patients live. Although building a new facility on the outskirts of town might have cost less initially, Peak Wellness would have sacriﬁced convenience and the recognition that comes with location in a recognized local landmark (Churchill School is listed on the National Register of Historic Places). The organization’s commitment to being a good neighbor is appreciated by the surrounding neighborhood and by Churchill School alumni, many of whom attended the facility’s open house in March 2009.
“People were grateful that we kept the old school,” said Birney, “and many have come by just to see it and relive their school days.” Stephen Miller, a nearby resident, praised Peak Wellness for working closely with the neighborhood during the rehabilitation process. He says that the rehabilitation of Churchill School is “a great beneﬁt to the neighborhood, Peak Wellness and the community” and notes the increased pride and interest in maintaining older buildings, inspired by the Churchill School project.
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