Las Vegas, Nevada - The city of Las Vegas Historic Westside School has been selected as one of the American Public Works Association’s Public Works Projects of the Year for 2018 in the category of Historical Restoration/Preservation, $5 million but less than $25 million. Plaques recognizing the honor will be presented to the city of Las Vegas Public Works team that managed the project, the project general contractor Whiting-Turner, and the project architect, KME Architects, at the APWA annual Public Works Expo in Kansas City, Missouri, Aug. 27.
“As the first elementary school in West Las Vegas, the Historic Westside School holds many memories for longtime residents,” said Ward 5 Councilman Cedric Crear. “It is wonderful to have the school restored for the community to use and to see it’s restoration nationally recognized.”
The Historic Westside School was built as the Las Vegas Grammar School Branch No. 1 in 1923 and expanded in 1948, and both buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was the only grammar school on the west side of the railroad tracks until 1945 and the first public school attended by Native American students from the neighboring Paiute Indian colony. During the 1920s, Las Vegas was a racially diverse settlement and public education was integrated. It is the oldest remaining schoolhouse in Las Vegas.
The school’s two buildings are located on a 2.84-acre campus at 330 and 350 W. Washington Ave. Work began in January 2015 to return the original four-classroom building to its 1923 appearance inside and out. The 1948 annex building now looks much as it did when it was built. But modern improvements, such as natural gas-powered air conditioning, up-to-date electrical wiring, insulated windows, a secured and repaved parking lot with 16 covered parking spaces, three electric car charging stations and three bike racks, have replaced the chalkboards and desks. Both buildings have been repurposed as potential meeting rooms, offices, shops and exhibit space.
More than 160 construction workers labored for 18 months on improvements. Plans for restoring the historic school began as early as 2005, but were hampered by a lack of funds. Rehabilitating the school involved painstaking historical research, allowing contractors to restore floors, windows and walls to their early appearance. Lighting fixtures no longer available had to be replicated from photographs and approved by historic preservation experts from the Las Vegas Historic Preservation Commission, the State Historical Preservation Office and the National Parks Service, since the school is included on the city of Las Vegas Historic Property Register and the state and National Register of Historic Places. The same was true for the school’s entrance doors and built-in cabinets. Old carpet, padding and tiles were removed to reveal the school’s original Douglas fir wooden flooring, and the complex’s exteriors were returned to their original mint green.
The structures closed as a school in 1966, although the buildings have been used for other purposes since. Today KCEP Power 88 radio station, the Nevada Preservation Foundation, Las Vegas School Uniforms and Tech Impact, a nonprofit corporation that provides information technology job training for urban young adults, have leased space in the school. However, there is still space available to lease in both buildings.
The $12.5 million cost for rehabilitating the historic property was funded by the Commission for the Las Vegas Centennial, the city of Las Vegas Redevelopment Agency and the city of Las Vegas, which also made use of $4 million in gap financing supplied via the federal New Markets Tax Credits program. See more about this historic rehabilitation by viewing a brief video at https://youtu.be/X08st3zGHYk