The one-room Buford School (174-566 New Castle Buford Rd, Meeker, CO 81641) was built in 1902 and served local students for fifty years. After the building stopped being used as a school in 1952, it was renovated and converted into a community center. It continues to serve as the headquarters of the White River Community Club and hosts regular social gatherings.
The town of Buford lies twenty-two miles upstream from Meeker in the White River Valley. Ute Indians were driven out of the region as a result of the Meeker Incident of 1879, and whites arrived to settle the valley in the early 1880s. Buford quickly took shape as a gathering spot for farmers and ranchers along the White River; a post office opened there in 1890.
Settlers in the White River Valley established a school system in 1885. By 1890 they had organized School District 7, which includes Buford. Evidence from school board meetings indicates that a schoolhouse already existed in Buford in May 1890. This original schoolhouse was a two-story building with a classroom on the first floor and a room for dances and community events upstairs. Located near the confluence of the White River and Big Beaver Creek, the schoolhouse was damaged in a 1902 flood. After the flood, materials from the damaged schoolhouse were used to build the existing one-story, one-room schoolhouse on higher ground about half a mile from the original site.
The building operated as a school for fifty years. In 1902 it had fourteen students, reportedly the largest number in several years, and in 1917 it had thirty-one students. In 1925 local residents moved a nearby building and attached it as a small teacherage on the west side of the schoolhouse. Built using exposed logs and furnished with a small stove and bed, the teacherage provided the school’s teacher with modest living quarters. At the same time, the main building’s original exposed logs were covered up with planks on the exterior and wallboards inside.
By the early 1950s, the Buford School had fewer than ten students. The school closed in 1952, when Buford students started being bussed to Meeker.
When the Buford School closed, the land and building reverted to Minnewa Bell, who owned the surrounding property. Bell and her late husband, Alphonzo, had bought the land in 1928 and become active members of the White River community. The Bells had significant ranching and oil interests, and had also developed the Los Angeles neighborhood of Bel Air. Their daughter, also named Minnewa, married Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s son Elliott in 1951.
In 1953, shortly after the Buford School closed, the younger Minnewa Bell decided to renovate the building and donate it to the White River community for use as a community center. She modernized the building by adding a kitchen and restrooms in the old teacherage, a stage at one end of the main room, and new oak floors. Eleanor Roosevelt attended the building’s dedication as a community center in September 1953, and Elliott Roosevelt served as master of ceremonies.
Since 1953 the White River community has regularly used the renovated Buford School building for dances, meetings, and other social gatherings. After existing informally for several years, the White River Community Club was formally organized in 1961 and has held regular meetings at the Buford School since then. The club claimed the Buford School building in 1970, when it realized that no formal deed for the property existed. The club uses membership fees, donations, and volunteer efforts to maintain the building.
With the help of local contributions and a grant from the State Historical Fund, the building was renovated in 2008 and restored to its 1950s appearance. It continues to be a prominent roadside feature along the Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway.