Join us for food, fun and a great cause
by Kristin Gramando
On Toltec Road between Interstate 10 and Jimmie Kerr/Frontier Boulevards, on the east side of the road just south of the railroad tracks, sits a building with significant historical value to the community. Eligible for the National Historic Registry, the old Toltec Elementary School is currently being restored by the Santa Cruz Valley Historic Museum.
The mission-style building was completed in 1930 on lands donated by the Shedd family and it was used as a classroom in the Toltec School District until 1956. From 1958 to 1966 it was used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 1966 the building was renovated and was used as a school again for the next 10 years. A jail cell was installed when the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office used the building as a substation from 1977 to 1984. The wooden building, just to the southeast and built in the late 1920s, is believed to be one of the last standing “colored” schools not restored in Arizona. In 1951 desegregation was instituted in Arizona and all the children were then taught together.
Composed entirely of rural farming areas south and west of Eloy, the school district was never part of any city until the 1960s. From the beginning, area farmers employed many multicultural workers from all over the Valley, including the Tohono O’odham Nation. They employed only the best and most dependable of the migrant workers and Native Americans. Children living on the farms attended the old school.
The museum acquired the school buildings in 2003 with the intent of restoring them so they could be used as a multi-purpose museum and visitor center where artifacts of the past would bring history to life for present and future generations. Successful fundraising efforts, material and financial support from the community and various grants have allowed the museum to accomplish significant advances in this renovation process. The renovation of the “colored school” was completed in time for the Arizona state centennial in 2012 and was selected by the state as a Legacy Project. A great deal of restoration has been accomplished.
However, much more needs to be done. The electrical and mechanical work need to be brought up to current codes. A restroom that meets ADA standards needs to be installed. The intention is also to build a replica of the original wooden schoolhouse. Two five-ton air conditioning units have been installed. Of course with any old structure, there are many additional projects which still need to be addressed.
Santa Cruz Valley Historic Museum’s annual fund raising event is a dinner dance held at The Property Conference Center. The theme for this year’s event is “Fiesta Time”, with the Acertijo Norteño Band providing the live music. Sponsors, contributors and attendees are sought to aid in the success of the event. With good food, good music and good fun, guests are encouraged to purchase tickets and attend in order to join in on the door prizes, raffle and both silent and live auctions. The 2016 event is scheduled for Friday, November 4. For more information about the museum, the renovation efforts and this year’s event, contact Dick Myers at 520-840-1041. The website is http://scvhmuseum.org.