Central School building completed in 1916
|The Price Community Center's appearance has changed little from the building's first days of life in 1916 as the Central School. The building later became Central Elementary School and, after closing as an educational institution in the late 1960s, the structure has served various additional purposes in the Carbon County community.|
When a building burns down, it is replaced with a new structure in most cases. The task is usually accomplished by tearing the rest of the old building down, ripping out the foundation and replacing everything.
A year and a half ago while preparing the parking lot north of the College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum for repaving, the construction crews discovered a foundation. In subsequent days, it was found to be the old foundation for the Price Public School which burned down in January of 1915.
The find sparked considerable interest in the old building that had stood there and officials from the museum brought the state archeologist down and examined the remains themselves.
While there was nothing significant found, and the foundation was later covered over, the interest that the find generated spilled over into stories in both the Sun Advocate and around town.
But even though the foundation was covered over almost 90 years ago, the people of Price at the time still needed another building in which to house their children for school. For the year following the fire, offices, dormitories and even some warehouses acted as school rooms for many children. During that time, work begun on a new building to be called the Price Central School. The new school was built on the corner of 100 East and 100 North. That building later became known as Central Elementary School, then the human services building and today it is known as the Community Center Building and it houses a number of agencies.
When the building opened, it was hailed as one of the most modern schools in the state. The cost of construction dwarfed the value of the original building ($40,000) by almost double.
But the fanfare of the opening belied what the members of the community had to go through to get it built.
The day after the fire, the Price City School Board of Education took stock of what was left of the building. The old building was totally destroyed and all that was saved were some desks and books for lower grades on the first floor.
Everything on the second floor of the building was completely destroyed, so the district was starting with literally nothing. The board would not only need to construct a new building, but furnish it and buy books and supplies for the school.
Two days after the fire, school trustees John Pace, John Potter and Thomas Fouts began the planning for a new building. Insurance proceeds had amounted to about $30,000, so the men along with other trustees and the superintendent, S.W. Golding, put together a bond election to raise another $35,000.
An architect was soon named, Miles Miller from Salt Lake. He drew up the plans for the building in only a couple of months and the school board let a contract to George Ryland of Price to construct the facility.
In the middle of the project, the Utah Legislature made a change in how school boards were situated throughout the state. Many rural districts had been set up by an individual community. Price had a school district and so did various communities around the county.
On June 10, 1915, the Price district had to turn over all its records to the new Carbon County Board of Education and the city district dissolved as of June 30 of that year.
But the need for the building was apparent and the construction plans continued with the only real change being in where the school would be located. Originally, the school was to be built on the northeast corner of the block, where the Price police and fire departments are currently located.
Instead, the new county board determined that the building would be partially built on top of the old Central School's location; the northwest corner of the block.
According to The Sun (one of the local papers and a predecessor of the Sun Advocate) when the school opened, it had some of the most modern conveniences available in a school.
"Few, if any school buildings in the state have such a perfect heating and ventilating system as has our new school. A thermostatic temperature regulating system has been installed that works perfectly and will do much to conserve the health of the school children. The electric lighting system installed is modern in every way and there is a telephone in every classroom."
The heating system had originally been planned without thermostatic control, but that was later added during construction at a cost of $1135, a sizeable amount of money for a change order on a building in those days.
After towns people had seen the old public school building burn to the ground so quickly the year before, the area feared fire more than ever.
Fire during the era of total wood construction in housing and many buildings was much more common than today, and so the community made sure the building was ready for any eventuality.
"Adequate fire protection has been provided," reported The Sun. "On both floors two sets of hose are connected with stand pipes and at all times read for instance use.
When students entered the building that April, the building wasn't quite done because of a holdup on some materials the contractor had ordered, so the building had not had final acceptance from the board. But the details were minor. It was ready to go.
Originally, the school had 12 classrooms but only 10 of them were being used for classes that spring, grades one through six. For the first time that spring, the seventh and eighth grade were sent up to Carbon High, making the Central School into an elementary only.
Interestingly enough, not one classroom size that spring was under forty students with the highest being the sixth grade which included 51 bodies.
Over the years the school served the community well, eventually becoming known as the Central Elementary School. When Harding School was built on the opposite corner of the block the two schools shared elementary duty with students going to the Central School in the primary grades and fourth through sixth grades attending Harding.
The schools closed in the late 1960s and Harding was torn down to build the new fire station. But Central continued to serve the community in various capacities as a state human services building and now as the Community Center.
Lately rumors have emerged that the building, now 86 years old, is seeing it's last days. But while Price City, it's present owner, has been doing some evaluation of the use and condition of the facility, there are no present plans to tear it down.
But someday it will go, but generations of students who passed through it's halls will remember it regardless of what else stands on that corner.