The Winter School No. 70 is an historic one-room schoolhouse near Lecompton in Douglas County, Kansas. It is a genuine example of a typical rural school used during its time. Construction began in 1870 after a local farmer, Mathais “Ship” Winter, donated land to form a school district. The district covered an area roughly two miles from the school in each direction and included approximately 20 families. Classes were typically held for three months in the summer and four months in the winter.The school functioned normally for 75 years.
Lee: Bertha George and Hazel took Jeanne up there so she could see around the country. Jeanne: They always said "see the world". Lee: So they had her, about 4 or 6 months old, up there. Dan: Can you imagine coming home and seeing your little baby on the roof?!" - Oral History of Winter School by sisters Lee and Jeanne Winter interviewed by great-nephew Dan Winter
The building itself is a model of 19th century vernacular house and barn construction along the frontier in Kansas. Like most of its early counterparts, it was originally a simple rectangular building with one large room and a gabled roof. However, the material and manner of construction is unique even among the numerous rural schools in this area. The walls are built entirely of local native limestone and are nearly two feet thick all around. The original mortar is made of lime, sand and horsehair. The stonework was done by Chris Christensen, a stonemason from Sweden and was said to be one of the best in the county. A wooden bell tower sits on top of the building, above an original stone signifying the building’s construction date in 1870 and the district’s county designation, No. 70.
The Winter Community Club met at Mrs. M.R Winter's Tuesday evening. The program consisted of Victrola music and roll call answered by poems. -Lecompton Sun, October 1928
As typical among rural schools, they functioned not just as a place to learn lessons but as a gathering center for the entire community. The Winter School was used for social functions, meetings, plays and especially, spelling bees. “The social side of life here was not neglected” as Goldie Piper Daniels claims. After the district was consolidated in 194x the grounds were turned over to the Winter Social Club. That group operated the building into the 50s and gathered to exchange ideas. This was the last recorded public use of the building before it became used as hay storage for the surrounding farm and eventually, and fell victim to decay. In 1984, descendants of the Winter family bought the building and formed Winter School Preservation, Inc with the intentions of restoration; but it wasn't until 2019 that full scale rehabilitation was possible.
"History can untie our minds, our bodies, our disposition to move - to engage life - rather than contemplating it as an outsider. " -Howard Zinn
As it sits prominently on the Farmers Turnpike the local community had been vocal about wanting to preserve the building and curious about its fate. With private funds raised by Winter School Preservation, Inc and with help from a generous grant by the Douglas County Historic Conservation Committee construction began in spring of 2019. Dan Rockhill and Associates, renowned historical preservation architects, executed every detail according to State Historical Standards in order to ensure its historical accuracy. To allow public use, modern washrooms and a courtyard were added.