|City/Town: • Fredonia
|Location Class: • School
|Built: • 1911 | Abandoned: • N/A
|Status: • Abandoned
|Photojournalist: • Emily Cowan
Driving down a dirt or gravel road, a wheat field on one side, cornfield on the other and prairie grass for miles ahead. Inevitably if you drive long enough you’re bound to come across a few abandoned structures. Driving up to a T-intersection I see right in front of me the classic characteristics of an old schoolhouse just peeking out from the trees, the Grand Valley School. A vernacular-style roof fitted with wooden shingles struggled to protect the one-story brick building. Etched above the doorway in beautiful stonework is the words “Grand Valley School District 59 1870-1911” this is presumable the time period that the last school building was in use.
This new building was finished in the fall of 1911 under the supervision of contractor Enright and was a spectacle of modern architecture. The rural community was ecstatic to have their new schoolhouse done and urged those in the surrounding area to come and gawk at the new facility with them. One of the first teachers listed in its opening year was Leonard Matthew, back then it was pretty uncommon for men to hold a teaching position. Inside the building was enough room to entertain and teach, per a newspaper article in 1914 teacher Eva Mariner put on a show and invited all patrons to fill the schoolhouse and listen to the program.
Grand Valley was just like any other run-of-the-mill country school becoming a pinnacle of community events. At the close of each school year, a basket dinner was held and a program put on by the students. District 59 was a school that provided common school education, if students wanted to and had the available schedule to they transferred to Fredonia High School for their secondary education. In 1919 Fredonia high graduate Katie Belle Hunter was hired as a teacher at District 59 and did such a satisfactory job she was hired for another term the following school year.
A pretty prominent figure in the Grand Valley School history is Fritz W. Koch. An Illinois native he spent a greater part of his life in Kansas making his way to the Fredonia area. He got his common education from GV and would then go on to serve fifteen years on the Grand Valley School board, twelve of them consecutively.
It is unknown when exactly the school closed down although from trends throughout the US it was probably around 1940-1960s. The community might have made attempts to keep the building alive by using it as a community center. But with citizens being spread far out and a lack of funds most of the time these are short-term solutions and buildings end up becoming abandoned. It seems the building doesn’t have much longer before the roof caves in and the bricks then start to crumble as mother nature reclaims the land and materials that were once hers.
Gallery Below of Grand Valley School
If you wish to support our current and future work, please consider making a donation or purchasing one of our many books. Any and all donations are appreciated.
Donate to our cause Check out our books!