By Ericka Kastner
Seven miles west of Poncha Springs, nestled in a valley along the banks of the South Arkansas River, sits one of the cutest little schoolhouses you’ll ever see. With its brightly painted cherry red exterior, the Maysville School is impossible to miss and definitely worth a stop on the way up into the high country for those traveling west on U.S. Hwy. 50, or for Gunnison folks heading east toward the Upper Arkansas Valley.
At Chaffee County’s inception in 1879, Maysville was one of the largest communities, eventually becoming the railhead for mines in the area. Historians believe the original schoolhouse may have been two stories tall, making it significantly larger than the present-day one-room schoolhouse (the size being diminished in 1912) and attached teacher living quarters.
Originally when the school was in use, the county had up to 30 different school districts. Ultimately the smaller districts were merged into two, Salida and Buena Vista School Districts, in 1958. For a time, the former District 4 Maysville School was used as a bus barn, but it was set aside to be protected as a historical site in 1977. The Colorado Historical Society provided funding for preservation of the school, and in 1999 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A visit to the site also reveals what is likely to have been an original outhouse for the school on the south side of the building. A bell sits atop the schoolhouse roof, and when the building is open for visitors, children delight in the opportunity to pull the long rope attached to the bell, sending gong-like sounds reverberating through the valley. The school is available for group tours and event rental for small weddings or receptions. Information about the Maysville School is available at salidamuseum.org.
If you have time when visiting Maysville, take a detour up Forest Service Road 224 west of town along Hwy. 50 and explore one of the numerous hiking trails off the road, including access to the Colorado Trail about 2.5 miles in.
Ericka Kastner writes from her loft in downtown Salida and when she travels, she never misses a chance to stop and explore an old schoolhouse or church along the roadside. View her work online at erickakastner.com.