National Register of Historic Places


Big Horn Academy Historic District

Cowley

Date Added to Register

Thursday, March 26, 1992

Smithsonian Number

48BH260

Read all about it

The Big Horn Academy Historic District includes the Big Horn Academy constructed in 1916 of rusticated sandstone and the Cowley Gymnasium/Community Hall built in 1936 of lodgepole pine logs. The historic district is significant for its primary role in the development of education in Cowley and the Big Horn Basin. The Big Horn Academy was the first high school in the Big Horn Basin and in Cowley; the Gymnasium was the first constructed in Cowley.

The Mormon people came to the Big Horn Basin in 1900 in response to a call from their church president to colonize the west. An added incentive came from William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) who had acquired state permits to appropriate water along the Shoshone River. In 1907 the Mormons started construction in Cowley of a stone school house, a part of which was allocated to the use of a more advanced academic enterprise which they would call the Big Horn Academy. Its program was essentially that of a high school, although in the context of that time it was thought of almost as a college. The Mormon church planned to rotate the Big Horn Academy every few years between the towns of Lovell, Byron, and Cowley where the program would be housed in available facilities. However, the school never made it to Byron and in 1913 the LDS authorities started planning the construction of a permanent building to house the Academy. The old stone school house was torn down and the new school building was completed in 1916 at a cost of $40,000. The Academy was operated as a church school until 1924 when its physical facilities and responsibilities were transferred to School District No. 28 and the entity thereafter came to be known as the Cowley High School. In 1936 the Gymnasium and Community Hall was constructed adjacent to the Cowley High School as part of a Works Progress Administration project.

Department of State Parks & Cultural Resources