Built in 1914, the Crowley School is the one of the oldest public buildings in Crowley County. It served as a schoolhouse and hosted community events until 1962. After years of deterioration, the building received a major restoration in the 1990s and now once again serves the community as a town hall, museum, and meeting space.
The town of Crowley was first platted in 1910. After going through several name changes, it finally settled on Crowley, in honor of the state senator who helped split Crowley County off from Otero County in 1911. At the time, the town was merely a stop on the Missouri Pacific Railroad where local farmers could ship their crops and buy supplies; it consisted of a few store buildings. The town grew quickly, however, and soon boasted a population of several hundred.
Already by May 1914, just as the town was starting to take shape, a local group saw the need for a school. The group acquired a lot at what is now the corner of Third and Main Streets for $300. Construction started in July 1914 and took four months. The redbrick Renaissance Revival schoolhouse, which features one story over a raised basement and a cupola above the front entry, cost $7,700, including furnishings. It is the only known example of the Renaissance Revival style in Crowley County.
The Crowley School opened on November 23, 1914, with forty-four students. It offered some secondary school instruction until a separate high school was built nearby in 1920.
As one of the oldest public buildings in Crowley County, the Crowley School served a variety of community needs in its early years. The Crowley Presbyterian Church held services at the school until the congregation got its own building, and the Commercial Club held meetings there as well. During World War I, the school hosted Red Cross classes. It served as a temporary hospital during the 1918 influenza epidemic.
When the Crowley County School District formed in 1962, the former high school building in Crowley became the junior high school, and the nearby Crowley School was used for fifteen years for shop classes and band practice.
By 1980 the Crowley School building stopped being used for classes and started being used for storage. In 1992 the school district offered to give the building to the town of Crowley. By that time, it had stood mostly vacant for more than a decade; was in bad shape; and had windows missing, holes in the roof, and hundreds of pigeons.
The local community, including Crowley School alumni, led an effort to restore the building. Between 1993 and 1998, with the help of grants from the State Historical Fund and volunteer labor from the Crowley County Heritage Society and the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility near Crowley, the school underwent a complete renovation. Now known as the Heritage Center, it houses the town hall, town office, and Crowley County Heritage Museum. It also serves as a community center, hosting senior events, weddings, reunions, and parties.