Some information presented here comes
from a history of Eliot School written by Victor S. Formo
and published in the Dispatch on April 24, 1952. If
you have any additions or clarifications, please
FIRST SCHOOL - NORTH SIDE
The first goes back to 1885, when the North Side
School was built near the northern boundary of the township
in the "Falvey District." (Louisiana Ave. was then
called Falvey Street after the Falvey
family.) It was a wooden structure. The
first improvement was in 1890 when a well was dug. The
eventually sold for $150 and removed. (Another source says
it was given to the neighborhood for use as a barn.)
SECOND SCHOOL - NORTH SIDE
A new North Side School was built for $6,700. Classes
began in the new structure in December 1913. Also a frame
structure, this building was destroyed by fire on April 2,
has it that a janitor fell asleep and his newspaper caught
THIRD SCHOOL - ELIOT
A bond issue for the new building in the amount of $20,000
was voted in on June 15, 1926. Students attended Oak Hill School while it was being
The new school was proposed to be renamed Highcroft, but on
petition of residents, it was changed to Eliot. Her family lore has it that Lillian McBride Ryan was
instrumental in helping build the new school and in creating
its new name, but we do not know the origin of the name
Eliot. Keith Meland speculates that it was named after
Charles W. Eliot (1834-1926), who was President of Harvard
University from 1869 to 1909. There are many Eliot
Schools in the US named after him, and our school was built
in the year of his death.
Eliot School, 1926
A new janitor, Joe Koelfgen, would serve the school
from 1932 to 1954.
In the beginning, the school had only an
auditorium in the basement, two classrooms on the first
floor (the ones on the east side near the front door), and
two unfinished classrooms upstairs. Grades 1-3 shared
one room, and grades 4-6 were in the other. The
picture below is from 1926.
A contract to finish the two upper rooms was let on June 3,
Contracts for a remodeling of the old structure and
construction of 20 more classrooms were let on November 30,
1950 to accommodate the
swelling numbers of families moving to the north side. The
architect of the project was John Belair, architect from
Haxby, Bissell, and Belair. The
$825,000 addition was opened on March 4, 1952, with
entertainment by the High School Glee Club under the
direction of Gordon Griebenow. The
principal was Mary Towey, who had been a teacher at
Brookside. Kids moved to the expanded school from cramped
quarters in the west wing of the Central building. The school
now contained 24 classrooms, a large
gymnasium/auditorium, storage and office space, cafeteria
and kitchen, and a small meeting room where the old
auditorium had been.
Undated photo from school district
In the 1950s, the Eliot Mothers Singers were directed by
Betty Meister. They performed for the Oak Hill-Park
Knoll PTA during the 1955-56 school year.
A PTA booklet from 1955-56 shows the distribution of the
ages of students on the North Side: Grades 1-3 had no
less than six classes each, while Grades 5 and 6 had only
two. Here are floor plans from that booklet:
In 1974, a scandal exploded, with teachers charging the
school, and particularly Principal Mary Towey, of wrongdoing
over a 20-year period. The School Board seemed reluctant to
act, but some parents were so incensed that they moved out
of the neighborhood.
By 1977 the boomers had passed through and the school was
closed. 1,000 people attended a 50th anniversary party for
the school in June. Children were reassigned to Peter Hobart and Cedar
Manor. In November it opened as a fine arts center.
In 1981, a suspiciously high incidence of breast cancer
seemed to be present in women who worked, volunteered, or
were students at the Eliot building. Chemicals in the water,
left over from years of industrial pollution, were suspect.
The State Department of Health investigated, but concluded
that there was nothing in the building or in the water that
could explain the trend. In 1982, superintendent Mike Hickey
sent a memo to the concerned women that said that no more
action on the part of the school district was warranted,
stating that diseases tend to occur in clusters.
Ken Storm organized an Eliot School reunion in 1992 that was
very successful. The oldest teacher attending was Miss
Agnes Aarseth, who taught from 1930 to 1974.
Thanks to a generous donation, the Historical Society has in
its collection Eliot Elementary School PTA Directories from
1954 to 1967. There are also several years of teacher
rosters. We only have one student yearbook, from 1977.
If anyone has any more to donate, we'd appreciate it!
Eliot was shuttered and its programs were moved to other
buildings. Proposals to redevelop the site have fallen
through - the cost of the land and demolition call for the
development of multifamily housing, but the neighborhood
protested. See the article in the
Sun-Sailor. After a reversal, in December 2012 the
City Council decided to go forward with a plan to built
apartment buildings and single-family houses on the site.
Developer Dan Hunt plans to build the 138-unit Eliot Park
Apartments in two buildings in addition to three
The building has been considerably vandalized and damaged,
making it unsafe to tour one last time.
NORTH SIDE MOTHERS' CLUB
In the years before the advent of the PTA, mothers banded
together to raise funds and provide their children's schools
with items the school board could not or would not provide.
The Northside Mothers’ Club formed in about 1923, changing
its name to Eliot as the new school was built. The stated
purpose of the club was “to study the welfare of the pupils
of North Side School and of the young people of this
community who might be helped by the club.”
The Mothers’ Club concerned itself with a variety of needs,
the most important of which was providing the students with
a hot lunch. It appears that they made these lunches
themselves, but were continually lobbying the school board
to provide such lunches and were still doing so in 1930.
The group held events such as dances, bridge parties, and
bunco parties to raise money for such items as:
Balls and bats for the boys
Long jump rope for the girls
Phonograph records for the school
Oil cloth for art tables
Christmas trees in classrooms (a common contribution of
Shades for windows
Furnishings for rest room – davenport/day bed
They also went in with the Ladies Aid Society to purchase
T.B. (tuberculosis) bonds. And they sent flowers to
teachers, etc. who were ill – one of their goals was to
“remember the sick in different localities.”
One interesting fundraiser was a “Hard Time Dance,” held in
January 1931. A prize went to the best hard time dressed
lady and man.
In 1932, a sand and gravel company provided free sand for
In 1933, they “financed and sponsored a
boy scout movement”
with the Ladies’ Aid.
In 1934 they celebrated Founder’s Day with a skit, songs,
and a cake, but founder of what? That year they heard Mr.
Roy Olson from the St. Cloud Reformatory speak on the
present crime wave among our boys and girls.