The Maxwell School

The Maxwell School as seen from CR 321 with the Sawatch Range in the distance.

Chaffee County Heritage Area Advisory Board invites the public to the presentation of the National Historic Register for the Maxwell School from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Sept. 17. The plaque will be presented at 4:30 p.m. at the corner of CR 326 and CR 321/Rodeo Road in Buena Vista.

The Maxwell School, also known as Mount Princeton School, was built in 1912 to serve the children of local farmers and ranchers. It closed in 1933 when the rural population began to decline and was abandoned for many years.

The first teacher was Ermel Bunbury, 19. Most of the teachers were women who lived with local ranch families. The school also served as a gathering place for community functions.

The designation to the National Historic Register comes after many years of effort on the part of local historians.

“I can’t tell you what an achievement this is,” said Melanie Roth, past chairman and member of Chaffee County Heritage Area. “It has been a many-decade project to nominate the school. The state wasn’t interested before.”

The Greater Arkansas River Nature Association is the financial administrator of grants for this project, and it received grant awards on behalf of Chaffee County Heritage Area. 

Efforts to restore the school began in 1989. The building was vandalized several times with windows and doors broken. The roof also had to be replaced.

Maxwell Creek flows about ¾ mile south of the school, hence the name Maxwell School, although it is also called Mount Princeton School because of its proximity to the Collegiate Peaks.

Only five students were attending in 1928 and 1929, which led to closure of the school.

The school is seen an a excellent representative of historic one-room schools. The bell tower that called kids to class still remains but the bell is not there.

While the school is no longer in the educational system, it will still have a connection to education since it promises to become a site for local student groups to visit to learn about early-day education when reading, writing and arithmetic were the foundation of education and computers were something in the far distant future.

Parking is available on the road and behind the school, and those attending the presentation are asked to take their own chairs. It is strongly suggested to wear boots or sturdy shoes as well as long pants because of high grass and weeds at the site. Light refreshments will be served following the plaque presentation.

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