SILVER CITY - From a chair in the window of her small house, 91-year-old Lula Kendall used to be able to see the bell tower atop the old school.
She was born down the gravel road and has lived in the town her whole life. She remembers walking to the school for her first class in the fall of 1918.
"We wore dresses," she said. "We never knew such things as wearing pants like they do today."
Under the bell tower, Lula and hundreds of others over the years studied calculus and consonants.
They rehearsed singing programs for the annual Christmas party. They played baseball in the front lot, going back in when the bell rang.
For the first time in 137 years, the bell tower disappeared from view Wednesday, obscured as the school burned to the ground in about an hour.
"I couldn't see the tower because of the smoke," Kendall said Thursday.
She heard the sirens and watched the engines converge up the street. "The smoke was billowing up and blowing due east."
The tower toppled at 2:27 p.m. Wednesday, seconds before the roof collapsed. Now the sky through Lula Kendall's window is empty blue.
"It seems strange that it's gone," she said.
The Aug. 7, 1867, Territorial Enterprise had a proposal to erect a schoolhouse in Silver City.
"It's likely the school was completed by the end of the year," said state historian and archivist Guy Rocha.
The 3,000-square-foot building, which had a main room with a lower section, was a school until 1958.
Grades one through four were taught in the lower section, and the older kids attended class upstairs, Kendall said. Students, whose fathers mostly worked in Comstock mines, walked home for lunch.
"We were just a group of kids going to school together," Kendall said. "We all grew up together. And of course the ones I went to school with are long gone."
But many others in Silver City will miss what residents called the "old school."
Kendall's parents, Alexander Armstrong and Lena Foote, and all three of her children attended the school.
After students were bused to Dayton in the late 1950s, the school became a fire station.
"They put the big doors in the wall on the lower section, where the younger children had class," Kendall said.
After a real fire station was built the community board, under the leadership of chairwoman Lynne Hughes, restored the school to its original condition.
It became a community center and town hall used for dances, meetings and social events.
The firefighters who battled the blaze Wednesday were planning to have their firemen's ball at the school on July 31.
"It was a major heartbreaker to see it go," Kendall said. "I think it's left a sad spot for a good many. Even though a lot of them weren't here when the school was running, it served as a town hall and community center and all that. It's a big blow."
She hopes Lyon County will rebuild a community center on the site.
"But they'll never rebuild what we had. Nothing will ever take the place of the old school. But we do need something for town gatherings."
Kendall, after whom Lyon County firefighters named a brush engine a year ago, worries about more fires in Silver City.
"I hope we don't have any more scares. And it was scary the way that wind was blowing. Firefighters did well to hold it where they did."
Though she moves slowly with a walker and doesn't leave her house often, she doesn't worry about her safety.
"Our own fire department knows I'm here alone."
She's more concerned about the loss of historic buildings like the Silver City school.
"All I can say is, I hope we don't have any more (fires). You just hate to see any old landmark go."
Contact Karl Horeis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.