WPA made old Meeker Elementary School possible

This photograph was taken in front of the foundation of the new elementary school with Mrs. Massie’s third-grade class of 1938-39 in front.
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This photograph was taken in front of the foundation of the new elementary school with Mrs. Massie’s third-grade class of 1938-39 in front.
This photograph was taken in front of the foundation of the new elementary school with Mrs. Massie’s third-grade class of 1938-39 in front.
MEEKER I “A public meeting of the taxpayers of District No. 1 will be held Monday evening in the high school auditorium for the purpose of discussing the [elementary school] building situation…” announces the local newspaper on Feb. 28, 1938.
After two elementary school buildings had failed, one built in 1888 and another in 1918, the citizens of Meeker faced the challenge of providing an adequate building for their children.
Thus began diligent research, debates, planning sessions and extensive letter-writing for finances. The Superintendent of School District No. 1 in Meeker, Ray C. Humes, wrote letters to the State of Colorado and others to procure a solution. Finally, the school board discussed and made the decision to apply to the federal WPA (Works Progress Administration) program for assistance in constructing a building that would last.
The WPA had been created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on May 6, 1935, as a reaction to the Great Depression. The concept was to provide, through public works projects, relief work for those who were unemployed.
Eight million jobs were provided to people who were to build roads, dams, schools, indexes, oral histories and art.
Meeker, Colo., became one of the last recipients with the WPA labor force building our own Meeker Elementary School on Main and Fifth streets, or, as the location was referred to back then, Town Park, which was originally the east half of the soldiers’ parade grounds.
The April 1938 newspaper announced, “School Building To Be Placed in Town Park!” The following article stated, “The only solution which seemed in any way possible is for the board to accept the proposition made by the WPA.” This included a site for the building, materials and $12,000 to $15,000.
Approval was declared in August 1938 in the local newspaper, “On Monday of this week, Congressman Edward T. Taylor wired the Herald as follows, ‘Am just advised that President Roosevelt approved WPA application for school building project at Meeker in amount of $25,134. Kindly advise those interested.’”
And so the action began. The school board minutes noted, “…the ground was broken July 7 [1938], for the new grade school. Piling was driven and the foundation set upon the piling to safeguard against soil conditions that promoted the collapse of the two previous school buildings.”
Josephine Holland was county school superintendent and provided oversight. F.A. Carstens donated the beautiful red stones from his place. Foreman Harry Pollard kept the construction going and the WPA crews used their skills to begin creating a special place for posterity.
That year, when school opened, the grade school had to improvise with first and second grades in the Rush Store, third and fourth grades in the I.O.O.F. (Odd Fellows) Hall, grades five and six in the bank building in the Neal Block and seventh and eighth grades in the Baer Building.
The faithful school board, with President Lillian Purdy, not only stayed creative and positive in finding temporary classrooms, but they met regularly and kept moving forward in spite of serious challenges and setbacks. The wonderful teachers sponsored benefit dances to help with supplies since the budget was stretched, and the students bought their own workbooks and art supplies. However, every sacrifice was worth it the following school year, when it was announced that school would open Oct. 16, 1939, in the new building.
Josephine Holland wrote about the new building in her Dedication of Cornerstone Speech: “…the WPA workers developed a civic pride in the achievement of a super structure. The rock work was superb. Every detail was given careful consideration …a structure that will be one of beauty, majestic dignity and endurance.”
A community had come together and triumphed and many students since that day have made good memories and gained knowledge for life on those grounds.
As it is with many WPA buildings across our nation, this structure has indeed become an icon of beauty and meaning to the town of Meeker.