A brief history of the Gold Hill School

By Derek Secor Davis

The Gold Hill School and its surrounding community have a rich history. As the name indicates, the town of Gold Hill has it origins in the early gold mining days of Colorado. In January of 1859, gold was discovered in Gold Run Creek very near the center of present day Gold Hill. This discovery was one of handful of gold strikes that occurred in Colorado that year and was part of Colorado’s first gold rush. By the summer of 1859 the population of Gold Hill is estimated to have been between three and five thousand.

The first settlement of Gold Hill consisted mostly of tents and hastily built cabins. This was located on Horsfal Hill or Gold Hill as it was known back then, just east of present day Gold Hill. As is often the case with gold rush mining communities by the late 1860’s, the original settlement was near deserted, after being ravaged by the forest fire of 1860 and economic difficulties of the civil war coupled with the mines playing out. However with the discovery of Tellurium in 1872, a form of gold ore that had been overlooked by the previous prospectors, new life was infused into the town of Gold Hill. With this discovery the present town of Gold Hill began it’s existence located off the windswept flats of Horsfal Hill, down in a more sheltered area by Gold Run Creek where the first strike of gold had occurred thirteen years earlier.

With this influx of new inhabitants, Gold Hill experienced a building boom during the summer of 1873. Twenty dwellings, six boardinghouses, a hotel, two stores, a meat market, blacksmith shop, two stables, two saloons and the schoolhouse were built. The first school was a log structure that served both as schoolhouse during the week and as a church on Sundays. That first year there were thirty one students taught by Miss Hannah C. Spalding, a native of Massachusetts. The October 17,1873 issue of the Boulder County News named Gold Hill’s new school “one of the best schools in the County”.

In 1890 the original one-room school was dismantled and replaced by a larger one room frame structure, which continues to be used as the room for grades 3-5 today. In 1895 this one room school served sixty enrolled students, who at the time were taught by two teachers. Somewhere around 1898 a smaller room was added on the back of the school to serve the growing student population and this is the present day library. For about ten years, around the turn of the last century, the Gold Hill School employed two teachers, each being responsible for about forty students. In 1985 another room was added to the east side of the school, almost doubling the size of the building creating what is, to this day, a two-room schoolhouse. This room serves now the K-2 grades.

Against all odds, the Gold Hill School has remained in continual operation ever since it first opened in the fall of 1873 as a one room log schoolhouse. It narrowly survived being destroyed by a wind driven wildfire in November of 1894 when the entire town was saved by a dramatic change of wind and the onset of a snowstorm. Another type of storm threatened to close the school in 1964 when the Boulder Valley School District very nearly decided to close the school. Only through national media attention and the entire population of Gold Hill protesting the decision was the school able to remain open.