When Silver Plume’s one-story wooden schoolhouse could no longer contain the student population of the town, the school board commissioned Denver architect, William Quayle to design a new schoolhouse. Construction began in July of 1894 and was carried on with such enthusiasm that the building was ready for its first classes that fall. It was among the largest and finest brick buildings in the county, and the town was justly proud of it. Eight teachers and 218 children in grades one through twelve filled its five classrooms. Since then, three generation of Silver Plume children attended school here. As the town’s population eventually dwindled, however, so did enrollment. The last classes, with about twenty students, were held in the spring of 1959.
Interested townspeople took over the schoolhouse building in 1960 and began to put together a collection of memorabilia from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, creating the Silver Plume Historical Museum which opened in July 1961. Each summer since then many hundreds of tourists have visited its displays on mining, railroading, education, firefighting, and daily life in Silver Plume during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
More than any other structure in town, the schoolhouse symbolizes continuity with the past, since it has been in use almost continuously from Silver Plume’s boom town heyday to the present. The museum was renamed the George Rowe Museum in 1970, commemorating one of the town’s leading citizens, himself a close link between Silver Plume’s present and past. Until his death in 1979, George Rowe, an eighty-seven year resident, collected and preserved records, stories, and artifacts of the town’s history, of which he was so much a part. His donations of antiques, mining tools, and old photographs form the basis of the museum’s collection, and his memories of early days in Silver Plume have been a most valuable resource in compiling the history of this town. Other individuals and families continue this tradition and add their histories to the museum’s evolving collection. Since 1974, People for Silver Plume, Inc. has managed the museum, maintaining the building, collecting historic artifacts and papers, preserving the history of Silver Plume and the memory of the pioneers who settled here.
At present, we are looking at needed work on part of the schoolhouse foundation. People for Silver Plume, Inc., with support from the History Colorado State Historical Fund, has completed the planning stage for this project. The building and museum depend largely on donations for maintenance and preservation. In the past, grants have assisted with a new roof, improved electrical system, structural work, access, and publications, but People for Silver Plume, Inc. must pay its share of matching funds.