St. Peter’s Religious Education Center - 1112 9TH AV

 Print Listing Historical Name - St. Peter's Catholic School
Style - No Style
Built Year - 1926
State ID - 5WL3079

Description - This vernacular masonry school is a rectilinear, two-story, brick structure with a flat roof. It has a brick foundation and brick and stone exterior. The main facade is broken into three bays and contains a centered entrance. The one-story, brick and stone entrance has three wooden doors with decorative stone entryway with Tudor influences. Windows are double hung and sash and have stone sills. The brick chimney is located in the center of the back of the building.

Historical Background - Father Raymond P. Hickey of St. Peter’s Catholic Church initiated the purchase of the property for the school in 1922, for $12,218, which included the house located on the northeast corner of the property, which was later remodeled and used for the nun’s convent. (From “History of St. Peter’s Parish”, n.d., no author given, p. 22) Opposition arose when Reverend Raymond P. Hickey established the school because of the large number of Protestants in Greeley. The Protestants believed “that nothing but public schools should be allowed in the city because of the State Teacher’s College there.” Despite this Protestant opposition, the church hired well-known Greeley architect Sidney Frazier to design the building in 1926.( Sidney Frazier also designed the Greeley Tribune Building (1928), Greeley High School (1928), Greeley High School Gymnasium (1925), and Greeley Junior High School (ca. 1938). Throughout his career, he designed and oversaw the building of more than 40 schools. (Rocky Mountain Contractor article, Aug. 1952; obituary, June 17,1962 - family files). He died in June of 1962, having had his office in Greeley for twenty-three years (obituary, family files, Who’s Who in Colorado, 1938, page 1085).) The school was built at a cost of $26,640 in 1926-1927 and was dedicated on February 23, 1927. (From “History of St. Peter’s Parish”, n.d., no author given, p. 20-22) Several years prior to construction, the Sisters of Loretto founded the school, based on moral and spiritual values. “The major purpose of a Catholic School is the development of moral and spiritual values and to help young people gain experience in making good decisions consistent with these values.” (The Mustard Seed, Oct. 84, Vol 4, No.2) The Sisters of Mercy taught at the school in 1926 in a house until the school building was completed. (Tribune, “Priests Upset Over Prospect Catholic School Might Close”, 3/3/1971 and Tribune, 5/11/1978, page 27) The enrollment the first year the building was used is estimated at seventy students. The first enrollment record, kept during the 1934-1935 school year, shows ninety students attended and three teachers taught. (Denver Catholic Register, “Greeley School to Offer New Hot Lunch Program”, Thurs., Sept. 8, 1955) Sister Mary Eulalia was the principal in 1928, and Sisters Mary Alphonsus, Mary Stephen and Mary Cecelia were teachers in 1928. (City Directory, 1928). Three students graduated from the ninth grade in 1929, including Fred O’Grady, Billie Young, and Mary Ella Leake. (St. Peter’s School Album, photo album) From the opening of the school in the late 1920s until the late 1950s, the school included grades one through nine. On June 4, 1938, the Tribune announced that six ninth graders would receive diplomas at commencement at mass at St. Peter’s on Sunday. The Rev. Froegel presented the diplomas and gave the commencement address. The same article recognized students who were not graduating but who were not tardy or absent during the year, particularly those students who lived outside of Greeley. (Greeley Tribune, 6/4/1938, Vol. 30, No. 261) In an undated article, probably from the early 1950s, nine ninth graders graduated, and Rev. Froegel and Mrs. Louis McMahon of Denver were the commencement speakers. The students participated in the ceremony, including Bill Romey, who gave a tribute to the priest, sisters and parents and Dennis Gillen, who was the toastmaster for the breakfast. The breakfast, held at Newman Hall after the mass, was sponsored by the St. Peter’s PTA. Kenny Martin was the valedictorian. (GREELEY TRIBUNE, “St. Peter’s Graduates Shown with Monsignor Froegel”, n.d.) In the December 1984 issue of “The Mustard Seed”, St. Peter’s School alumnus Jeannene Weigle reminisced about her experiences at the school. She started school there as a first-grader in 1939, and continued her secondary schooling there as well. (The Mustard Seed, Vol 4, No. 4) The 1950s were an active time for this Catholic school. The school organized a PTA, enrollment levels increased, and the school made improvements to the building and its surroundings to accommodate the changes. Greeley Catholic School organized a PTA during the 1950s. Rt. Rev. Monsignor Froegel held several meetings to establish the PTA on August 29, 1952 and September 9, 1952. The meetings were “well-attended” and, at the September 9 meeting, the parents and teachers elected officers. The PTA affiliated itself with the National Council of Parochial PTAs. Health professionals and people from other fields came and spoke to the PTA on topics ranging from a child reading program to civil defense. During the 1950s, improvements to the building included adding a principal’s office, tiling the classrooms, adding blackboards and new desks, and putting a fence around the playground. The school opened in 1954 with over 200 students, a new enrollment record. In 1956, Fr. Robert F. Hoffman and Dr. Joseph L. Haefeli headed a fundraising campaign to raise money to add four to five classrooms to the school. (Denver Catholic Register, Thurs., June 28, 1956). However, the increased numbers and absence of space led them to discontinue the ninth grade in the late 1950s, and in 1968 grades seven and eight were canceled due to due to limited facilities and shortage of space. The Junior High Curriculum included courses in religion, English, Spanish, general science, algebra, physical education and student government. The parish pastors helped with instruction. For example, Assistant Pastor Reverend Edward D. Ryan was the religion instructor for the junior high. During the mid-1960s through 1978, Sister Sheila Devereux was the principal of Greeley Catholic School. She was the school administrator, but she also taught in the classroom. One of the programs at Greeley Catholic School during the 1970s was the Title I reading program, in which students wrote their own books. (Tribune, 5/5/76). Another program the school participated in during the 1970s, was a free lunch and reduced price lunch program, which they joined in 1970-1971. (Tribune, 6/1/72, p. 24) The school nearly closed in 1971, due to a $156,000 debt. A pledge drive saved the school from closing in 1971, however, a financial crisis arose again in 1972. (Tribune) Despite these financial troubles, activities continued at the school, including a poetry contest, athletic events, a free throw contest at Heath Junior High in February 1971 (Becky Murphy of Greeley Catholic School won), and attendance at a Denver Symphony Youth Concert. The students also made and distributed valentines to Greeley nursing homes. In 1979, the school was used for an open house following a dedication of the parish center at 827 12th Street. (Greeley Tribune, Fri., Oct. 5, 1979, p. 26) Bertha Huff, originally a physical education and math teacher at Greeley Catholic, became the assistant principal as the number of nuns to run Catholic schools declined, and then became the full-time principal in 1982. Huff believed that the school would grow, and that parental dedication would ensure school maintenance. In 1984, the Greeley Catholic School began a religious education program, bringing in the Catholic priests of Greeley to teach on a regular basis. The school also operated an Adult Education program, although it was canceled in October 1984. The school included grades kindergarten through seventh grade, while most Catholic schools go through eighth or ninth grade. (Greeley Tribune, “Principal brings her public experience to private school”, 4/18/1982) The Catholic School occupied the building for 58-60 years from approximately 1926-1928 until 1986, when the building was leased to Weld Opportunity School. (Greeley Tribune, “Catholic school studied” 3/13/96; “Greeley’s Catholic school closes after fifty-nine years”, 8/1/86) The mid 1950s and the 1970s marked the high points in enrollment for the school, with numbers above 200. In 1983-1984, enrollment was down to 137, and in 1985-1986, it was down to seventy-four. In 1986 the Archdiocese closed the school due to a large debt and decreasing enrollment. For its last twelve to fifteen years in operation as a Catholic school, St. Peter’s Catholic School was operated by three parishes, while most private schools in the Catholic system are operated by one parish. Weld Opportunity School, an alternative high school for high risk students, occupied the building from 1986 until 1997 and was founded by the Weld Board of Cooperative Education Services school districts. (Greeley Tribune, “Dropouts find a future at Weld school” 11/21/92) The school provides opportunities for high school dropouts or potential dropouts from high schools within Weld County. (“Weld Opportunity School now open to all of county” Greeley Tribune 7/10/92) Classes include those for young mothers and expectant mothers. This program was funded through the Weld Board of Cooperative Educational Services (Greeley Tribune, Oct. 22, 1988, “Keeping parents in school”) The waiting list to get into Weld Opportunity School increased every year from 1986 until 1994, when there were 65 students on the list. By 1996, the school had 96 students on the waiting list with enrollment at 70. (“Opportunity on hold” Greeley Tribune, 3/18/96) The school moved into a new, larger building in October of 1997. The building stood vacant in 1998, and in 1999, St. Peter’s Religious Education Center moved into the building, and opened St. Peter’s Preschool.