by Carolyn Newman
WALSENBURG — The little students in the Seventh Street school were shocked; their principal, Miss Lucy Lester, 58, left school as usual on Friday. By Monday morning she was dead of pneumonia, the sickness that carried off people so quickly before the days of antibiotics. It was 1918.
The Seventh Street school was more than a primary school – it was a neighborhood center too. In 1919 foreign-born adults could attend free night classes to learn English and to study citizenship. If they passed the course, they need not take the government citizenship classes and could become citizens. Seventh Street was called the ‘Street of Nations’ because many of the area’s new immigrants lived on this street, largely because it led directly to the Walsen mine property. Ten new residences had been built along that stretch just that year.
An added plus for the school was the location of the Cucharas River, just a few blocks away. The teachers held some science classes right on the river bank! Bids to build the school went out in April of 1910; school board president Dr. T. D.
Baird encouraged the building of the school for students in the west part of town. Hill School and the old Washington School were on the east side, and were very crowded with 556 students enrolled. Strangely, the Walsenburg World newspaper never reported the actual construction of the new school. It had two rooms each side off the central hallway.
The Seventh Street school was not the only solution to overcrowding. The town was growing, so the decision was finally made to put house numbers on all residences. St. Mary Catholic School also made plans to build an elementary school for 300 to 400 students.
Look closely along the west exterior of the wall of the Seventh Street school. Small chips in the bricks were made by bullets during the 1913-14 coal mine strike.
The red brick school still stands at 611 West Seventh, now privately owned.
Information is from the Walsenburg World newspapers of Feb. 10, 1910, Jan. 16, 1919, March 31, 1910, Oct. 10, 1912, Nov. 3, 1910, April 25, 1918, and from the April 29, 1955, World-Independent.
The History Detective is a service of the Huerfano County Historical Society. Check out huerfanohistory.org. or email email@example.com.