The Vandenberg building, originally called the Weaver School, was built in 1952 as the first structure used specifically for the education of the children of Ellsworth Air Force Base.
General Hoyt S. Vandenberg (1899-1954) was instrumental in the foundation of the Strategic Air Command under Chief of Staff Dwight D. Eisenhower.
When the Air Force became independent in 1947, Vandenberg was its first Vice Chief, and upon the retirement of General Carl M. Spaatz in 1948, he became Air Force Chief of Staff.
In 1948, the Berlin Blockade began and Vandenberg’s Air Force bore the brunt of that crisis by mounting the successful Berlin Airlift.
By his retirement in 1953, he had transformed the Air Force from a shoestring Air Force into the modern power it is today. It was fitting to name the building in General Vandenberg’s honor.
Built on government land and maintained by the Air Force, the original Vandenberg building consisted of eighteen classrooms. The Rapid City Independent District contracted and operated the Vandenberg School. Because the base population grew so rapidly, in 1955 an eight classroom addition was added to the original structure.
By June 15, 1955, using temporary buildings on Base and the Vandenberg Building, the present Douglas School System was in operation. On July 21, 1972, construction of a gymnasium and a library was begun as part of an agreement to deed the property over to the Douglas School System. On October 16, 1974, the Douglas School System accepted the land and building with the title being cleared in 1995. Since the summer of 1991, the Vandenberg Building has housed fourth and fifth grade students.
The 2014-15 school year will be the last year Vandenberg houses 4th and 5th grade students. Starting in the fall of 2015, the new Vandenberg School building will open. It will be located on Briggs Street across from Badger Clark School.
An ariel view of Vandenberg School in 1956.