By Sharon Danhauer
Loveland’s 1884 one-room rural Ward School is suddenly no more. Evidence of its story can no longer be shown to future generations, except by photos. The school, which was in a county enclave on the northeast side of Loveland, was quietly demolished in February. It was also known locally as the Westerdoll School, as it was on Westerdoll family land when built. It was one of only two remaining stone masonry rural schools in Larimer County. The last one still standing is in Bellvue at Morning Fresh/Noosa Dairy and is thankfully preserved by the owner.
Ward School was a unique and important reminder of a rural agricultural life that is very different than what we know today. As most rural schools were not built of resilient masonry, but were wooden, most were gone long before the purposeful demolition of the Ward School. Its story of an agricultural society’s education system can now only be told, but not shown. We have missed the chance to teach about the skills of its construction by stone craftsmen. And missed the chance to teach about the way a rural one-room school was run. Thankfully the restored Lone Tree School in North Lake Park provides such an opportunity at least to a limited number of students annually. Ward School could have helped fill this need. Ask any child who has attended a reenacted one-room school.
Or the building could have been repurposed as a neighborhood venue for gatherings. Or as a coffee shop or a brew pub. It didn’t have to be summarily demolished.
Local historians realize that this travesty has occurred solely because Larimer County has no preservation ordinance in place to protect our historic built environment. There is nothing to prevent demolition of places that portray a meaningful part of our history unless they are covered by a city ordinance. But sadly, several cities in the county do not even have a protective ordinance. It is time for Larimer County to remedy this dangerous situation and enact an ordinance that could prevent the loss of our history piece by piece. We need a rule that enables a property to be landmarked so as to protect it from demolition when it could be preserved and repurposed.
Many Colorado counties do have a working preservation ordinance in place: Baca, Bent, Boulder, Broomfield, Crowley, Delta, Denver, Douglas, Elbert, Gilpin, Grand, Gunnison, Jefferson, Kiowa, La Plata, Lincoln, Mesa, Moffat, Montezuma, Montrose, Otero, Ouray, Park, Prowers, Rio Blanco, Routt, San Juan, San Miguel, Summit, and Teller Counties. I have lived in Loveland for nearly 50 years and have been active with the Loveland Historical Society and with Historic Larimer County for many of those years. I am aware of how meaningful a strong preservation ordinance could be.
An example of a helpful resource is Place Economics’ document “Twenty-Four Reasons Historic Preservation Is Good for Your Community,” https://www.placeeconomics.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/City-Studies-WP-Online-Doc.pdf
Sharon Danhauer is a fourth-generation Coloradan, originally from Colorado Springs, who has been active with several historical organizations since she came to Northern Colorado in 1980.
Reviewed By This Is Article About Larimer County needs a preservation ordinance – Loveland Reporter-Herald was posted on have 4 stars rating.