Many thanks to Carolyn Charles,
retired Park High teacher and communications officer, for much of the following information.
Also see Public Schools
The building that some know as St. Louis Park High
School, others as Central Jr. High, and still others as the
home of the Spanish Immersion Program, has a long and
interesting history. There are basically three
sections as the building exists now: west, middle, and
THE 1914 BUILDING: West Section
The first structure located at 6300 Walker Street was built
in 1914 on land that had been donated in 1912 by T.B. Walker
in exchange for tax relief. That first portion of the school was dedicated in a
two day ceremony in January. Supt. Hatch presided and
TB Walker was the principal speaker. The building was built at a
cost of $60,000 – three stories with very high ceilings. The
building was described by Dorothy Hatch Langlie:
The new school was a model of the latest ideas in
school planning, offering every facility for work and
play. The classrooms were large, with huge windows
designed to take advantage of sun and air. The seventh
and eighth grades had their own home rooms, but for the
high school there was a spacious assembly hall with
classrooms opening off of it. There was a sunny library
for reference work, sewing and cooking rooms, a
horticulture room with a greenhouse, manual training
[woodworking] workshops, chemistry lab and a big
auditorium for programs, plays, gym classes and
basketball games. On the grounds were tennis courts at
(“The Honorable”) T.B. Walker donated Block 17 for the
new school, and Block 16 (five acres) for experimental
agriculture. At the time there was a proposal to name the
building Walker High School, but it was not to be.
Walker also donated Block 33 in front of the new school for
an athletic field. In the winter, the Village would flood
the area for a skating rink. That site was eventually taken
in the early 1930s when Highway 7 was built.
Another picture of the 1914 building, taken in the '20s.
Highway 7 wasn't built until 1934.
In the fall of 1937 Mr. Christy (presumably C.Ed.) and
Mr. Yeager presented the school with a new scoreboard.
The school board and the Village had renovated the athletic
field as well.
In May 1938 the Echo-ette reported that there were
330 students at the Jr. High School.
In 1941 a new Industrial Arts wing was added to the north
side of the 1914 building.
In the summer of 1945 the gym was remodeled, making an
upper portion into six classrooms (the ceilings were 25 ft.
high). A nurse's office was also built between the old
and new building. General Contractor was Leck Construction
Co. of Minneapolis. Somehow the War Labor Board was
involved with making the decision, perhaps turning down a
request to add on to the building.
In the summer of 1946 the second floor of the Industrial
Arts wing was turned into 8 temporary classrooms.
In 1952 the library was moved from this building into the
new Eastern Addition. The entire second floor of the
1914 building was devoted to home economics, including
classrooms and a model home with a living room, dining room,
bed room, and laundry room "to complete all phases of home
economics," according to the Echo. The music
room was doubled in area and a new art room added.
The 1914 building was demolished in the spring of 1962.
1962 ADDITION: West Section
In 1962 the original 1914 building was replaced
by a new wing on the west side, designed by architect
Bissell and Blair. Funds for the construction were part of a
$1,053,000 bond issue that was approved in December 1960. It was described as a
$900,000 remodeling and rebuilding job designed to
accommodate 800 more students. Construction started in
mid 1961. The new wing
included five science rooms, 8 general classrooms, 3 art
rooms, a special activities room, band room, vocal room,
girls’ phy ed facilities, visual aid office, nurse’s
quarters, and a multipurpose room for speech, dramatics and
visual aids. The project also included the remodeling of the
offices of the principals and counselors and the improving
of facilities for industrial arts.
To accommodate the construction, 400 freshmen were reassigned to
the Sr. High and 300 went to Westwood in 1962.
THE 1938 BUILDING: Middle Section
In 1938, a new High School was built east of the 1914
building. The new school cost $300,000: $122,500 from the PWA and the rest from a bond issue of $130,000 that was
passed in 1935. Haxby &
Bissell were the architects, and Mads Madson was the
builder. The Centralized RCA Victor School Sound System was
installed by Lucker Sales Co. “A Good Sound Investment.”
The school opened in the fall of 1938, and the Dedication
Ceremony was held on October 26, 1938. Since there were more
Junior High students at the time, some High School students
remained at Lincoln that first year, which was a
disappointment to some. The 1914 building became the Junior High. The two
were connected by a passageway, and when the building was
first occupied, the first floor wasn't ready so students had
to enter by way of the Junior High. 150 students occupied
the eight classrooms on the second floor.
Central in 1938, courtesy Earl Ames, Jr.
The 1938 Park directory boasted that the auditorium could
seat 1,000, with a stage 56 x 106 - the largest in the
Northwest. It was put to use on November 19, 1938, when a
“Gala Performance” benefit was held to raise money for a
grand piano. The Dedication Program promised that “The
finest talent in the Northwest will entertain you and your
friends.” The concert was sponsored by Mrs. Louise Lupien
The Jr. High Echo-ette reported in May 1938 that the
new high school cafeteria, with a capacity of 250, was
located in the southeast corner of the basement. In
the northeast corner of the cafeteria was a private dining
room for teachers, which could also be used for private
dinners accommodating 24 people. The kitchen featured a
large gas stove with ten burners, a double oven, built-in
refrigeration and a steam table for at least four large
kettles. The ciling had acoustic tile. The floor
area of the main cafeteria was 60 by 44 feet, with tables
that could be locked together and used as ping pong tables.
The athletic field cost $250,000; $122,400 was paid for by
the Public Works Administration (PWA).
The WPA was involved with other school-related activities.
Participants canned fruits and vegetables to be used for
winter hot lunches. The WPA furnished the work and the
school furnished the food. County schools were also the
beneficiaries of WPA labor to fix up their properties, with
some receiving new basements, a new water supply, new roofs,
furnaces, etc. Most of the work in the Park consisted of
painting and redecorating.
In 1946-47, 16 rooms of elementary children Grades 4-6 were
crowded into the junior-senior high school.
The Class of 1949 had 209 graduates, then the highest in
history. The first of many graduation exercises was for the
seniors to stand up and give up their seats to the juniors at the senior
Contracts totaling $478,750 for a new wing of the
junior-senior high school building were awarded in November
1951 by the school board. The St. Louis Park High Echo
reported on November 20, 1951 that Matthew Levitt and R.C.
Fernstrom, school board members, flew to Washington to
present an application to the National Production Authority
for the necessary steel and other metal that was being
rationed because of the Korean War. The application
was prepared by the architects, Haxby, Bissell and Blair.
The application was approved and construction started on
Orville E. Madsen of Minneapolis was awarded $358,600 for
construction and for installation of acoustical tile in the
present junior high building. Harris Bros. was awarded
$123,950 for plumbing, heating, and electrical work.
Conceptual drawing of east wing, as published in the Echo in
The addition was designed to include an enlarged lunch room
and kitchen, teachers' dining facilities, faculty lounge,
student council office, new boiler, and 11 classrooms,
making a total of 55 classrooms in the school. The
expanded junior-senior high was to accommodate between 1500
and 1600 pupils. The existing
library, which served the entire community, was moved to
the first floor of the main addition and included a new
conference room. Four classrooms faced the library.
An additional seven classrooms were on the second floor.
The old library space, on the second floor of the 1914
building, was converted to home economics rooms.
To accommodate construction, students had to make
sacrifices. First, they were kicked out of the lunch
room and had to eat in their home rooms, or outside when it
got warmer. Cooks were transferred to other schools.
Then, their summer vacation started two weeks early, but
they had to attend school on other normal holidays,
including three days of Easter vacation. Even with the
shortened schedule, they were two days above the 170 day
State minimum for the year.
The new wing featured pastel color schemes, formica-topped
desks and blond wood for a look of modernism. The
cafeteria was not immediately available as school opened in
the fall of 1952, but two soft drink machines were placed in
the junior and senior high school buildings, dispensing Coke
and orange drink. The expanded cafeteria seated 500
students at 50 "beautiful formica-topped tables" surrounded
by 10 "comfortable steel folding chairs." In keeping
with the color scheme, the kitchen walls were done in a
peppermint green with darker green tile on the floor.
Ethel Baston, elementary supervisor, had a suite of offices
in the new wing
1953 the class size was well over 100.
Conditions were so crowded that in the 1954-55 and 1955-56
school years, students attended school in double shifts.
1331 junior high students attending class in the morning and
the 881 high school students attending class in the
afternoon. During those years there were almost 2,500
students in the building.
Aerial photo of Central in 1954. Note 1914 building
on the west, middle and eastern sections. At far left are
the buildings of Walker Street, once Park's main street.
The 1956-57 school year saw the opening of the
school on 33rd and Dakota. The Walker Street building became
St. Louis Park Jr. High.
Westwood Jr. High was built in 1959.
Approximately 1,200 pupils attended Central Jr. High in the 1963-64
The pool was added in 1967.
Central's athletic facilities were remodeled in 1977.
In 1980, with declining enrollments, the two junior highs
were merged and located at Westwood, which became St. Louis
Park Junior High School. A farewell celebration was held on
May 19, at which former students and teachers met and heard
remarks from former principals and superintendents.
After closing as a junior high,
Central was used for a community center.
In 1990, ten years after closing, Central staff met for a
reunion at the VFW. The Historical Society has a DVD
of that event.
In 1992 Central
became home to the Park Spanish Immersion Program.
In 2009 Central staff met to note the 50th anniversary of
the school's opening.
MATERIALS FROM CENTRAL
Thanks to generous donations, particularly from Mrs. Laura
Hanks, the SLP Historical Society has copies of Central Jr.
for the years 1969-1970 through 1979-1980. We believe
this is a complete set.
The Historical Society also has a
a copy of a literary publication called "Centricity" from 1972.
2014 photo by Emory Anderson