The History of
Denver Public Schools
District No. 1
District No. 1 may have been organized first, but District No. 2 was the first to have a school building. A large room was rented in a building at 16th and Market Streets which was called "Mr. Bayaud's Room". The school, known as Bayaud School, opened on December 10, 1862 and lasted until the spring of 1864. The following year the school was not opened for one very simple reason - no money.
Tax receipts were not enough to keep the school going but on May 10, 1866, the district was financially able to rent space in a brick building at 18th and Larimer Streets, site of the Windsor Hotel then owned by J.H. Kehler. This became the Kehler School. A month earlier a German school was started on the northeast corner of 14th and Curtis Streets. It was taken over by the district in February of 1868 and functioned as a public school until 1870.
In the beginning, both black and white students attended school in the rented school space, but in 1868, people in the district requested separate schools and rental space was found to house the black students in a building at 16th and Market Streets. The school moved February 2, 1869 to the African Baptist Church on Arapahoe between 21st and 22nd Streets. A later move was made to the African M. E. Church at 19th and Stout Streets and school continued there for the black students until the new Arapahoe School was completed in 1872.
Denver was growing rapidly, plus a steadily increasing number of students, which meant the district had to locate rental space for schools. The old Colorado Seminary at 14th and Arapahoe Streets was rented in the summer of 1870 and students from the Kehler School were moved to that site; the Kehler Building was no longer used.
It was not surprising that the number of students in the district surpassed the available room and the district had to look for additional rental space. Available space was found in the basement of the First Baptist Church on the northeast corner of 16th and Curtis Streets. Since the church had only finished the basement, it was known as the Baptist Dugout. The basement was leased on January 11, 1872 and with this space the district now had three rented buildings Kehler School (at the Colorado Seminary), the school for the Blacks and the Baptist Dugout. This arrangement would last through the spring of 1873 and change in the fall with the opening of the new Arapahoe School.
Arapahoe School had its start on land donated by noted Denverite Amos Steck. Several lots on the north side of Arapahoe between 17th and 18th Streets were donated by Mr. Steck in 1868. Between 1868 and 1871 the school district obtained additional lots in the block and ground breaking began on October 30, 1871. The cornerstone was laid on January 24, 1872 with completion of the school on April 2nd 1872. Arapahoe School included a library, elementary grades, and the first high school in the district which was established in 1873. It was a day of celebration in Denver as students of the first graduating class received their diplomas in 1877.
Arapahoe School, Denver's first public school, was destined to be short lived. In nine short years the school was closed and the building sold in 1882. Denver's rapidly growing business community had expanded to a point where the school was surrounded by stores and offices, putting the school in an inappropriate school area. The first public school building became part of a larger office building, the seven-story Club Building, which was torn down in 1955.
Even as Arapahoe School was being built the district was still in need of more space. A second school was built on Stout and 28th Streets with a completion date of March, 1874. It, too, had a short life. On March 11, 1881, the building was condemned and was destroyed by fire November 10, 1881.
As the city grew in population so did the school attendance and the district, faced with a continuing need for more school space, entered into a constant building program. Denver would experience a new school almost every year (some years two or three) during the next ten to fifteen years.
The high school, which had its beginnings at Arapahoe School, moved to a new building in 1881 along with the administration of the District. However only the west wing of the building was finished and it would not be until 1889 before the main section and the east wing would be built.
The position Superintendent was not created until 1871. Prior to that each principal reported directly to the school board. With the tremendous increase in both students and buildings it was clear that the administrative duties of a Superintendent was necessary. During the life of District No. 1, three men were Superintendent: H. Carver (1871-1873), F.C. Garbutt (1873-1874), and Aaron Gove (1874-1902).