In the 1960s, Colorado Springs lost a lot of its visual history when some of the historical buildings fell as a casualty to cost benefits. At the time, it was cheaper to tear down an old building and build a new one than to preserve the history and architecture in the existing structure. The Burns Theater, the second version of The Antlers Hotel and The Cotton Club were all historical buildings torn down and replaced during this time.
Ivywild School was founded in 1901 as an elementary school. The original building was designed by architect Thomas McLaren as a two-story building that would seat 100 students. This building was erected in 1901 and used until 1915, when it started to get crowded. It was moved to a different location at one point, became a private residence for a while, then was remodeled into the current Edelweiss Restaurant. The school moved to the current building in 1916 and at one point had an enrollment of almost 400 students.
In February 2009, a number of District 11 schools were up for closure due to declining enrollment. Joseph Coleman and Mike Bristol owned businesses in the Ivywild neighborhood. When they saw the Gazette headline indicating the Ivywild School was among the possible school closures, they couldn't see it go to ruin. There was so much history in that area and in that building.
Coleman, owner of The Blue Star Restaurant and Bristol, owner of Bristol Brewing Company, wanted to honor the original intent of the space, which was to educate and bring the community together.
Long hours, meetings upon meetings and some dark and sub-freezing building walk-throughs were all part of the deal. But so was connecting with the members of the community. Members who had attended the school or worked there. Members who had painted multiplication tables in the bathrooms and others who had spent time in the principal’s office. Members who were newer to the community but saw the value in keeping this piece of history and using it to revitalize a neighborhood they already loved.
On May 30, 2013, Ivywild School opened back up as Ivywild School, a community marketplace. A brewery and a bakery offered food and drink and soon, they started incubating local businesses, as well. Who Gives a SCRAP, run by Lorrie Myers, was one of the first. The business concept was a craft material reuse and repurpose shop accepting donations of craft materials and giving local crafters a place to re-shop their supplies rather than end up in a landfill. Today, Who Gives a SCRAP is thriving in a larger space over on Arcturus Dr.
Today, Ivywild School still incubates small businesses. Sometimes, it’s a food truck team wanting to try out a storefront or a unique niche art and gift shop looking to reach a new audience. Currently, visitors can nosh at Ivywild Kitchen, Bristol’s Spark Beer + BBQ, Decent Pizza Co., Lazo Empanadas, and Salad or Bust. Drink options include the Principal’s Office, The Bristol Pub., Bristol’s Barrel Room and Axe and the Oak Whiskey House. Odds & Ends Emporium rounds out the experience by offering unique gifts and art, and if you linger downstairs next to Axe and the Oak’s outside entrance, you might be able to smell the scrumptious roastings of Loyal Coffee as they are hard at work in “The Clubhouse,” pulling flavors from specialty coffee beans.
The outer spaces of Ivywild School are changing, as well. Construction is underway for a family-friendly, multi-generational space for patrons to enjoy some of the Colorado sunshine. This space will include fire pits and seating as well as a structure by local artist Bob Tudor.
This space is upholding the legacy as a gathering space for the neighborhood. Take a stroll down memory lane, as you descend the stairs and admire the art on your way to Axe and the Oak. Admire the reuse of the chalkboards and desks as you sip a prohibition-era libation in the Principal’s Office. Sample some local award-winning beer, and have the bartender tell you the story of the sliding door in The Bristol Pub.
They are ready for you.
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