The Wiley Rock Schoolhouse, built by the Works Progress Administration in 1938, is located on Main Street in the Prowers County town of Wiley (603 Main Street in Wiley, Colorado). Originally built as an annex for the adjacent Wiley High School, Wiley Rock Schoolhouse is made of reused concrete blocks with a local sandstone slab veneer. The schoolhouse served as additional classroom space until Wiley built a new schools complex in 1982. The rock schoolhouse was preserved by local residents and is now used for community meetings and private events.
Building the Rock Schoolhouse
In the 1880s and 1890s, settlement started on the north side of the Arkansas River around what is now Wiley, but the town was not officially incorporated until 1907. That year Wiley’s first substantial buildings were constructed, and the first post office and school opened. Over the next few decades, the Wiley School District absorbed several one-room rural schools, leaving Wiley as the only high school in the area.
To accommodate the growing number of students attending Wiley High School, in 1938 the school district constructed a high school annex to provide additional space for classes in subjects such as band, orchestra, agriculture, and blacksmithing. The project was funded largely by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a New Deal agency designed to combat the Great Depression by providing jobs to unemployed workers while also building civic, recreational, and cultural infrastructure. School buildings were a major area of focus for the WPA, especially in rural communities where the existing facilities were inadequate. In the eight years of its existence, the WPA built or repaired nearly 500 schools in Colorado.
Following its usual practices, the WPA hired local laborers and used local materials to construct the Wiley Rock Schoolhouse. Many of the workers who built the schoolhouse came from nearby farming families. The building’s walls were made of concrete blocks reused from the former Equity Building in downtown Wiley, while its facade and front curb along Main Street used uncoursed sandstone slabs quarried from near the Arkansas River.
The finished one-story schoolhouse faced east onto Main Street. The primary entrance stood in the center of the facade and was flanked by symmetrical sets of two windows to each side. Inside, the building had a central hallway that provided access to four large classrooms, including a blacksmith shop and a soundproof band room. The rooms had wood floors and slate chalkboards.
After World War II, the Wiley School District expanded the rock schoolhouse by moving barracks from a nearby military base and using them as classrooms. One of the barracks was attached to the rear of the rock schoolhouse until it was removed when Wiley built a large new school and gymnasium complex just west of the rock schoolhouse in 1982. After the new school complex opened, the rock schoolhouse briefly became a senior center and museum operated by the local Lions Club. The school district later reclaimed the rock schoolhouse for use as a temporary preschool facility but considered demolishing the building after a permanent preschool opened. Locals protested the proposed demolition and saved the schoolhouse, which is now used for community meetings, summer school programs, and private events.
The rock schoolhouse is now the oldest school building still standing in Wiley. It is owned by the Wiley School District but is leased to Prowers County, which maintains the building. In 2004 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and in the late 2000s the Prowers County Historical Society used grants from the State Historical Fund to rehabilitate the building.