The eleventh National Trust/HUD Secretary's Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation was awarded to the International Sonoran Desert Alliance (ISDA) for its rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the historic Curley School in Ajo, Arizona.
The Curley School, called an architectural masterpiece of Spanish Colonial Revival Style, was built in 1919 in Ajo, Arizona, at that time a small but thriving mining town. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places at the "national level of significance," Ajo is a rare example of a model company town. Built by mining interests during the City Beautiful Movement in the early 20th century, it was provided an attractive town plaza, shops, housing and the Curley School —Ajo's largest building. Closure of the copper mine in 1983 led to a precipitous decline in the population and the economy of this remote rural town. The $11 million rehabilitation effort included funding from Low-Income Housing and Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits, Community Development Block Grants, and other state and local sources. The restored complex comprises eight buildings built in 1919, 1926, and 1937, and provides 114,000 square feet of affordable housing, classrooms, workshops, auditorium with indoor-outdoor stages, computer lab, gymnasium, and cafeteria. The 30 affordable live/work housing units for artisans and creative home businesses are generating a new economic base for the town and fostering reinvestment in the historic Ajo town site.