By Mary Humstone
January 22, 2016
Yellowstone Elementary in Rock Springs, built in 1922-23, is a beautiful example of vernacular Collegiate Gothic architecture. Its castellated piers and parapets, variegated brickwork, and granite entryways impressed upon the students and the community that this was a hallowed hall of learning. Built the same year as both Roosevelt and Lowell Elementary schools, Yellowstone was not only the most impressive architecturally, it also had larger classrooms and the only music room. Unlike the other two, Yellowstone was built as an elite school for the upper crust of Rock Springs. The two bas-relief gnomes, one reading and one writing, that greet visitors from their perches on the castle-like piers were meant by architect D.D. Spani to symbolize the concept of higher learning by the upper classes. Instead, they became the stuff of schoolyard legend and teachers’ cautionary scolding!
Despite the stories surrounding the gnomes, Yellowstone housed generations of Rock Springs students until it was abandoned in 2002. The City of Rock Springs declared it “uninhabitable” after a break-in and vandalism a few years later. Luckily, Sweetwater County took over the property to house the Boys and Girls Club, but they only occupied the rear section of the building, a 1971 addition.
Although the original Yellowstone Elementary structure was deemed uninhabitable, another organization looking for a new home base decided to give Yellowstone a second chance. The Family Justice Center, an organization that helps victims of family violence, moved in in 2012 after relatively minimal renovations.
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