History, coming back to life
KME Architects Restores Historic Westside School
When it opened in 1923, the Historic Westside School was Las Vegas’ first public school for Paiute Indian children. Less than two decades later, it became the first school in the city to welcome African- American students.
Today, as home to the non-profit community radio station KCEP Power (88.1) FM, the Historic Westside School building has gotten a facelift thanks to a $10.5 million restoration project. On Aug. 27 at 9:30 a.m., a dedication ceremony will be held for the newly-restored building.
“I was approached by City Councilman Ricki Barlow, who had the original vision to do something to spark economic development on the Historic West Side area of Las Vegas,” said KME Architects owner Mel Green, whose company led the restoration. “He felt that the restoration of the Historic Westside School would serve as a gateway into the community and enhance more economic development interest. So we were hired by the City of Las Vegas to be the architect of record for the restoration project.”
The Historic Westside School building is the oldest elementary school in Las Vegas, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Nevada State Register of Historic Places, and the City of Las Vegas Historic Property Register. So, as a result, many prerequisites had to be met in order to redevelop the building.
“Before we began developing our designs for the Historic Westside School, we, along with Councilman Barlow, first met with alumni and community members who are very passionate about the … the historic school building,” said Green. “Taking their concerns and opinions into consideration, we then developed an action plan for the design. The building was actually renovated in the 1980s to accommodate KCEP. Our task was to restore the existing classrooms to their original condition, as well as the overall building.
“There were challenges to preserve the original design of the school to get the approval from Nevada’s Division of Preservation and the National Park Service,” Green added. “We had to replicate as much of the original building as possible. The 1940s school building — which was built after the 1923 original schoolhouse — was in total disrepair. For example, the beautiful windows that was a part of the original school were blocked and we had to expose and open them up.
We had to also rely on historic photos — and luckily, we found that two of the windows on the building were original, so we were able to replicate them. The doors also had to be replicated and measured, and the framing had to be the same as the original doors of the 1923 schoolhouse.”
The newly-redeveloped building is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified, with electric car charging stations and other sustainable elements.
“We are very proud of Historic Westside School redevelopment project,” said Green. “It will also afford business owners the opportunity to lease space for their companies, and serve as an overall hub for community events.”