PEAK TO PEAK
Historic rural schoolhouses can be found all over Colorado, including most Front Range mountain towns. Several of them have been lovingly restored and have found new ways to serve the public.
Each month this year, the MMAC Monthly takes a town by town look at the restored and repurposed historic schoolhouses in the mountain communities of Clear Creek, Gilpin, Boulder and Larimer counties.
Gilpin County north of Central City and Black Hawk is far more rural, but also saw its share of hard rock mining activity. While the county is small, thanks to discoveries of gold, it was home to thousands of people. Fifteen school districts were ultimately created throughout the county with Black Hawk, Central City, Russell Gulch, Nevadaville and Rollinsville being the first. Districts like Gilpin, East Portal, Apex, Lake Gulch, Bay State, Mountain House, Hughesville, Quartz Valley, Tolland and Thorn Lake were later formed all over the country near larger mining camps and ranches.
The Thorn Lake schoolhouse in Rollinsville is the last surviving one-room school in Gilpin County and has been declared a Gilpin County Landmark. The 1896 schoolhouse has been moved five times and now sits on a trailer along Tolland Road in Rollinsville. Its current site will become the school houses’ permanent home.
The one-story frame building has a moderately pitched front gable roof, simple horizontal lap siding with corner boards. The building was moved to Rollinsville in 1960 to serve as a volunteer fire department station. A door was cut into one end of the building for the fire engine at that time. The building moved again in 1967 to Gap Road—near where it was first built—to serve as another volunteer fire department building, but deteriorated into a storage building. It was donated to the county, who declared it a Gilpin County Landmark on April 3, 2007. It was then moved again.
The Tolland School House, located on Tolland Road near East Portal Road was built in 1902. The single-story, vernacular, clapboard-sided structure sits on a stone foundation and has a blue metal roof. On top of the roof sits an open bell tower and brick chimney. Located in a meadow along South Boulder Creek, the school has been owned and maintained for decades by the Toll family of Denver. It was the first schoolhouse to service the children not only in the township of Tolland, but also those of Baltimore and more rural places. The building exemplifies the significant social change in these communities from mining camps to more permanent developments more accommodating to family life.
Thorn Lake School
Location: Tolland Rd. at Rollinsville
Date Built: 1896
Date Built: 1902
Originally published in the May 2016 issue of the MMAC Monthly