The Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind was founded by Jonathan R. Kennedy, who had three deaf children. Having worked in a school for the deaf in Olathe, Kansas, in 1873 he moved to Denver and quickly received the backing of Territorial Governor Samule Elbert and the territorial legislators to start a school for deaf children, located in Colorado Springs. General Palmer donated 10 acres of land east of downtown for the school’s campus. School was opened for the 7 deaf students in 1974 in temporary housing while the school buildings were built. In 1877, the school included blind students and in the 1890s, the school adopted its current name, Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind.
Early buildings were a Collegiate Gothic style, much like college campuses at the time. The earliest buildings are gone, but the Administration Building, built in 1906. Still housed the major administrative offices.
Early student training along with the 3 Rs (reading, writing, and arithmetic) included specific trades, carpentry, farming, broom making, sewing, kitting, and printing. For over 50 years the school had a 200 acre dairy farm with students tending to pigs, chickens, and cows. Today students learn, along with regular school classes, basic work skills that can apply to a variety of jobs and professions. Approximately two-thirds of the students are deaf, and one third are blind. Fifty-percent of the student population is residential, meaning they live on the beautiful campus.
Emma Alice Kennedy, one of Jonathan & Mary Kennedy’s deaf daughters, and her husband, Frank Chaney, had a son, Lon Chaney. He became a famous actor in the silent film era, starring in “Oliver Twist,” The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” and “Phantom of the Opera.”
Sports and athletic skill development are an important art of the school curriculum. One graduate, Paul Hubbard, who played football at Gallaudet University, is credited with starting the football huddle so the other team couldn’t see their plans while using sign language. Wrestling at the CSDB has produced nearly 20 state champions.
George Veditz, chess champion and founder of the Colorado Association of the Deaf, worked with President Teddy Roosevelt to correct the Civil Service classifications of deaf people to enable them to become government employees.
Through lending their extensive special library materials, CSDB works with local and state public schools to give academic support to students who have some visual or hearing losses, but attend public schools. The CSDB is an exceptional school – for exceptional people.
Generously Submitted by John Orsborn, CSPM Volunteer Educator