Old Johnson School

By Rine Kasckow

January 10, 2017

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The Old Johnson school, which is currently being occupied by Destiny Church and Academy, was built on the South Side of Cheyenne in 1923. It took the place of the 1883 Johnson School building, which was demolished in the 1920s. The reason for the demolition of the building was due to the expansion of the freight yards at the Union Pacific located on the South Side. As the railroad continued to play an important part in Cheyenne’s economy the South Side which consisted of working-class families continued to grow. A rise of workers in 1940s during World War II led more families to be present in the neighborhood which made it necessary for Johnson school to add more classroom space. This led to the addition of two new wings on the 1923 building. The Johnson school is no longer associated with Laramie County district, the grounds were bought by the First Assembly of God Church becoming Destiny church and the Destiny Academy which accommodates Kindergarten through 12th grade.

The old Johnson School is located at 215 E. 8th Street occupying an entire block. The original building was constructed in 1923, and throughout the years has received some updates including major 1950s era additions. The original structure is a two and a half story brick Collegiate Gothic building designed by prolific Cheyenne architect William A. Dubois. The original entrance of the building was constructed of molded terra cotta has been now altered and permeated with wood panels. Though the 1923 building had a gymnasium and auditorium it was removed and additions were made in 1953-54 to add a bigger gym and auditorium allowing for more space. Just two years later, more space was needed for classrooms, and two wings were added to the 1923  structure. These new additions somewhat followed the collegiate gothic motif, with a noticeably modern take.  

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The building has survived the years with additions and small changes such as window modifications and the closing of the main east-facing entrance. These changes by the Church and School have created a safe and inviting place that engages youth in the area and encaptures community. According to the National Register Nomination “the original facade, the most important aspect of the building, remains largely intact, and attempts were made to design the additions to be compatible with the original component.”[1] This building will have been standing in Cheyenne for 95 years in 2018 and will continue to be an image of dedication to Cheyenne’s education system and preservation of historic schools.

Following an unfortunate accident in 2016 which compromised a load bearing wall on the west side of the school, Destiny Church and Academy was awarded a Historic Architecture Assistance Fund grant in 2016, which connected them to TDSi in Cheyenne. The grant helped the church and school to leverage their insurance claim and create a rehabilitation plan for the wall.  Repairs were made so that all portions of the building remain in service. Pastor Rick McGraw of Destiny Church said of the grant, “We are so grateful for the work AHW is doing to help restore historic buildings in Wyoming.  It was a huge blessing!”

Sources

[1] Rosenberg, Robert G. "Johnson Public School." National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination Form. Rosenberg Historical Consultants, Cheyenne, December 31st, 2004. https://www.cheyennecity.org/DocumentCenter/Home/View/4167

 

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This project was funded in part by a Historic Architecture Assistance Fund and completed by TDSi architects in Cheyenne. The program is offered by the Alliance for Historic Wyoming in partnership with Wyoming Main Street and the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office and is made possible by a grant from the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund.

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