In small towns, in close-knit communities, a building is often more than a building. More than ofﬁce space or storage space, the right building is the community in and of itself; it is the heartbeat, it is home.
Crawford people know that, and have embraced, for over 100 years, the Crawford Town Hall as the community’s mecca.
The two-story stone building is situated on Highway 92, surrounded by lush green grass and a stone wall, adjacent to a relatively new playground, home to Pioneer Days and other events. It was constructed in 1913. On Dec. 12, 1912, the original building, a school house, was destroyed from a chimney ﬁre. That original building was constructed in 1906, and oversaw the education of children in ﬁrst grade through high school.
Photographs from that day show the ﬁre started in the west chimney and spread, reducing the roof to nothing, blackening the stone exterior, ﬂames licking out of the dozens of windows. Some photos show buckets of water here and there — ineffective for a ﬁre of that magnitude, but, since the Town of Crawford didn’t have a water line until 1926, better than nothing. Other photos show groups of kids, some on horseback, watching their school burn.
The community came together then, and started rebuilding the school right away. Work was completed over the winter and into the spring. The remainder of the building was razed and rebuilt, using the stone from the ﬁrst building. School was open in time for the following year (though stories abound that some of the older students, capitalizing on the timing and ﬁguring the school was burnt anyway, left school to work on family farms).
The school and adjoining gym also saw lots of community events and meetings held there, and when threatened by a shortfall of funding in the Depression Era, the community found a way to hold onto the building. Class sizes in the early days ranged from three or four people (none in 1925) to 20 or so in the 1950s.
First grade through high school students attended the newly rebuilt school until 1962, when high school students started commuting to Hotchkiss or Paonia. First through eighth grade students continued attending the school until the early 1980s, when the Delta County School District built the new Crawford Elementary School on Fir Street. Local historian Danny Cotten said the district sold the building to the Town of Crawford for $1.
“This building has been the heart of this community for a hundred years or more,” Cotten said.
Since that time, the building has been home to town ofﬁces, the American Legion, and the library. Over the years, repairs and renovations have been done here and there on the building. In February 2008, the town council held a public meeting to inform the community on the status of the building, which, by this time, was in need of a major renovation and upgrades if the community wanted to keep the building.
After several community meetings, the answer was a loud and clear, “Yes!” The council pledged $150,000 to the project and the Friends of the Crawford Town Hall was formed to seek grants and fund raise for the remainder of the $600,000 price tag. Currently, the group has raised $14,000 toward that goal. The project will not start until all funds are in hand. The Friends group has adopted the slogan, “Help us rebuild the heart of our community!”
The outside of the building will be returned to its original state, while making the original windows energy-efﬁcient, repairing or replacing the shingles, and adding year-round, all-weather outside access to indoor restrooms.
Inside, the upper story will be opened up to allow for a larger meeting space. Smaller meeting spaces and storage areas will be made, and the building will get a new heating and air conditioning system. The Friends plan to utilize energy-saving technology in the renovations whenever possible.
Farther down the road, once the building is put back into shape, the Friends plans to seek a GOCO grant to spruce up the grounds.
The Friends is currently in a major donor campaign, and in February, held a gala. The group’s next fund raiser is the Crawford All-School picnic, which will be held Saturday, Sept. 11, starting at noon. Anyone who ever attended any grade at Crawford and former and current staff is invited to the picnic, which will be held at the town park. Bring a potluck dish and your own table setting, and come for fellowship, fun, and a chance to hear stories about the building and see the plans for the renovation project.
The Friends group has also started a website, www.oldcrawfordschool.org, where you can read more history, see photos, and donate to the building fund.
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