Established in in Colorado Springs in 1874, the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind teaches students with hearing and vision disabilities. It is the only school of its kind in the state. The school’s buildings were built in the early 1900s, and it continues to serve deaf and blind students in Colorado.
In the United States, schools for the deaf started in the early nineteenth century. The first opened in Connecticut in 1817, and they spread rapidly in the late 1800s. When Colorado’s school opened in 1874, it was the thirty-sixth school for the deaf in the country.
Jonathan Kennedy, a father of deaf children, founded the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind. He had worked at a school for the deaf in Olathe, Kansas, and came to Colorado in 1873. He gained the backing of Colorado’s territorial governor. They convinced legislators to allot $5,000 to establish a State School for the Deaf. Colorado Springs was chosen as the site of the school. William Jackson Palmer, the city’s founder, donated ten acres of land for the school’s campus.
The school opened its doors on April 8, 1874. It was called the “Colorado Institute for the Education of Mutes.” In its first years, school was held in a rented house at the corner of Cucharras and Tejon Streets. The permanent school buildings were under construction. Seven students attended the school. In 1875 the first building went up on the land Palmer had donated. By 1876 the first Administration building was completed, and the school moved to its new home.
The next two decades were a period of growth and change. The campus added four and a half acres of donated land. It built new buildings, including a new Administration building, a classroom building, a girls’ dormitory, and a vocational building. None of these early buildings are still standing.
The school was opened to blind students in 1877 and changed its name to the Colorado Institute for the Deaf and the Blind. It adopted its current name, Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind, in the 1890s. The school taught students a variety of subjects and work-related skills. It was a mix of residential and day students.
Local architects Thomas Barber, Elmer Nieman, and Edward Bunts helped define the look of the campus in the 1900s. Like other campus buildings across the country, buildings at the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind have steeply pitched roofs, arched doorways, and plentiful windows.
Enrollment at Colorado School for Deaf and the Blind peaked at about 350 students in the 1970s, but started to decline after 1975, as Colorado school districts started to fund programs for deaf and blind students at public schools. Today the school serves nearly 250 residential and day students, plus more than 300 children in its infant and toddler program.