By Anna Jauhola
As Lancaster gears up for its annual Heritage Days summer celebration, the community will also celebrate the 100th anniversary of its school building.
Instead of holding its own event, the anniversary committee is planning activities that will add to the fun, which begins on Wednesday, June 24 with a Smorgasbord at Sion Lutheran Church.
“I feel our business association already does such a good job for Heritage Days, we just thought we would accentuate it a little,” said Nicole Thompson, co-chair.
The overall theme for the weekend is “Building Our Future by Honoring Our Past.”
Thompson said they asked for suggestions for the theme and submitted a few for the Lancaster Business Association to vote on. They chose this theme, submitted by Lancaster Alum Jacob Maier.
The association also chose from several logos submitted by Lancaster’s graphic design class to represent the anniversary. Current Lancaster student Hannah Vagle designed the winning entry, which accompanies this article.
As with the 95th all-school reunion, the district will host school tours. Thompson expects alumni will find most rooms, if not every room, labeled with its current subject and teacher, but also with information of what the room once housed.
“In the last five years, we’ve done a lot of shifting to fit everybody and what their positions are,” she said.
The school will also host a craft sale in the west gym, an art show in the cafeteria and a talent show. There will also be a kid’s dance on Friday night prior to the street dance and Saturday night will provide an Old Tyme Dance.
“We’re trying to involve all age groups,” Thompson said.
The entire schedule is tentative at this point, but so many community members and alumni have jumped on board to ensure the 100th anniversary celebration is a huge success. For example, Jacob Maier and Jody Peterson are organizing the talent show, Hayley Coffield is organizing the art show and along with Thompson, Mendy Coffield and Sandie Nelson are co-chairs of the whole event.
“Jacob Maier is going to be emcee of the weekend,” Thompson said. “We’re using him for the talent show, we’re using him all over town.”
Those looking for a lasting momento from the entire weekend will find various pieces of clothing and merchandise for sale at the event and to pre-order.
Thompson said she and her co-chairs are really excited for the event.
The school’s beginning
Looking back into the archives of The Lancaster Herald revealed newspapers in the early 20th century didn’t quite cover news like they do today.
They carried much information, but few, if any, photographs. While the Herald didn’t publish any photographs of the school in construction or even when it was dedicated, it carried a good amount of information to patch together a good history.
Starting in January 1919, the Herald reported “Lancaster Will Have Good School.” In this article, the writer explained the area’s newly consolidated school district decided to hold an election on whether to issue bonds for a new school building, which would cost $50,000.
“A school like this will be of untold value to this community, giving the children equal opportunities to those living in the larger towns and cities,” the article read.
It also mentioned the building would increase land value, by at least $10 more per acre, and entice more people to remain and move to town.
In February 1919, the district’s voters came out in large numbers, according to the paper, to vote overwhelmingly in favor of bonds to fund the new building. The vote was 130 in favor and 48 against.
“The proposed building will be larger and better equipped than any other on the line north of Thief River Falls,” the article read.
That very week, the district posted a notice for bids on the bonds, which were sold within three weeks, and a contractor was hired by April 1919. A. E. Rydlun of Minneapolis was hired as the general contractor. C.E. Hasey & Co. of Minneapolis constructed the heating and ventilation. Holt & George of Thief River Falls secured the bid for plumbing. Langford Electric Co., of Minneapolis, completed the building’s wiring.
“The contracts call for completion of the building in six months, which will bring it well out toward the new year before it can be occupied,” reported the Herald.
In May 1919, the whole plan had a slight hiccup. After site work had already begun for the new school, the Herald reported that one person caused a stir and wanted the building moved to a different location. The newspaper outlined that the cost of moving, plus extra contractor fees, would increase the cost by thousands of dollars. Though the newspaper did not report any further on the incident, it is evident that one person did not get his way as the school remains in its originally planned location.
In October 1919, as a caveat to the building project, the Lancaster School District No. 74 – which was located within the town of Lancaster – set a special election. The question set to the public: Should the school board get rid of the old school building or retain the building and purchase a site on which to move it? Later records show that Gotfrid Wass purchased the old building for $950.
Early in January 1920, the school was mostly completed, “with the exception of part of the plumbing.”
By Thursday, Feb. 12, 1920, several dignitaries gathered in Lancaster to help dedicate the new school building.
“For a number of years, the schools in the community have not been adequate, taking into consideration the development of the country in other respects,” the Herald reported. “Despite the stormy weather, the event brought out a large number of people.”
The state inspector of rural and consolidated schools gave the dedication address, and other speakers included Lancaster Superintendent Hans Hanson, G. Holmquist of Warren and A. C. Holmquist of Lancaster.
The Herald also described the school’s layout, noting the basement housed the gymnasium, manual training and a mechanical drawing room. It also housed two toilet rooms with shower baths, a lumber room and fan rooms, and the boiler room. One fan room specifically moved fresh air from outside throughout the school all day.
The main level housed four classrooms, each with its own cloak room, and the library. The second story housed the auditorium/assembly room, a science laboratory, domestic science room and the principal’s office.
For as much gumption and pride the Lancaster community showed 100 years ago in building a new school, the community has continued to show the same over the years – from improvements to the building to providing great education for its students. It seems the Herald summed it up pretty well in 1920.
“As a matter of fact, the Lancaster community can well be proud of their new school building – a building which, as far as being substantial and well equipped, would do credit to any community of this size in the state.”
By Anna Jauhola