The present structure replaced a large adobe building that was sometimes used as a dance hall. It was purchased in 1876 by the Santa Fe county school commission. Poorly lighted and cold in winter, this crude facility served the children of Santa Fe’s east side until 1905 when an advisory committee declared it “a disgrace” and recommended its replacement. The architectural firm of L H. and W. M. Rapp was chosen to design the new school and the construction contract was awarded to Carlo Digneo, one of Santa Fe’s best-known builders. The school’s original cost to the taxpayers of Santa Fe was $5,311.

Even though the school was the pride of the neighborhood when it opened its doors in September 1906, its importance was short-lived. Four years earlier, St. Francis School had begun classes for an ever-increasing enrollment of students, many of whom came from the First Ward. This resurgence of Santa Fe parochial schools made the new building on CANYON ROAD something of a white elephant and after three years it became evident that continued operation was not economically feasible. In 1928 the building was sold lo Dr. Frank Mera for $5,000. Since its sale by the board of education, the former First Ward School has served at various times as the location of natural history and wildlife exhibits, and as a theater, an apartment house, an antique shop, and now an art gallery.

Courtesy of Santa Fe Historic Society