By Brie Blasi
September 28, 2016
Recently, the small town of Granger received news that Sweetwater County School District #2 would be building a brand new elementary school building. Although this was good news for the school children, Mayor Lenore Perry and other concerned citizens of Granger wondered about the fate of the old school building. Soon, they came together to formulate a plan for the preservation and reuse of the old Granger school. Through their initiative and dedication, they established a strategy for the building that not only saves it, but also benefits the entire community. The Granger school building has long served as a center for the town’s activities and, thanks to this stalwart group, the town of Granger can continue to benefit from its services and to use it as a community gathering place.
The Granger school building is actually two buildings in one and together they have a long history of service to this community. The oldest part of the building was originally the Hotel Granger, built in 1917 by J. Ernest Stinson and Lue D. Hill. The concrete building, featuring a square façade fronting a taller, barrel roofed rear wing, was the talk of the town with its 30 modern guest rooms, billiard hall, and grand ballroom. Granger was a junction on the Union Pacific and also a stopping point for summer motorists on the then 4-year-old Lincoln Highway. Even so, the town was very small and its future was not certain. Stinson and Hill’s decision to build the Hotel Granger shows the faith that people of Granger have always had in their community.
In 1939, it was deeded to Sweetwater County School District #6 and it was reopened as the high school in the 1940s. As early as 1950, however, the school board began discussing bussing high school students into Green River due to the low student population. By 1958, the high school students were attending Green River High and the community of Granger was celebrating the opening of their new elementary school building. With a $105,000 brick addition the west side of the old Hotel Granger building, the elementary school gained five classrooms, new bathrooms, and a 132 seat auditorium that served both the students and the community. It continued to be used as an elementary school until the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.
Mayor Perry and her citizens group secured a $1 million community block grant from the Wyoming Business Council to hire an architect and begin to renovate part of the building into a community center. While striving to preserve the historic integrity of both the 1917 and 1958 structures, the building will be updated with some new wiring, paint, expanded restrooms, and other improvements. Because of its small size, Granger residents often have to make the 60 mile roundtrip commute into Green River for services. The community center will feature office space for some of these to be offered in Granger, such as community health and veterans services. Along with an expansion of the Granger branch of the Sweetwater County Library, the building will also continue to serve as community gathering place where existing features such as the gym, art room, and auditorium can be used by both children and adults. They also hope to renovate a larger portion of the building to offer even more services in the future. Mayor Perry, the town council, and the involved citizens of Granger are an inspiring example of what can be accomplished when people work together to save their historic school buildings.
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