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West Concord makes the grade in history

The town's historical society museum – former high school – gets listed on the National Register of Historic Places

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Colleen Hayne, president of the West Concord Historical Society, shows classroom filled with historical artifacts in the West Concord Museum February 15, 2021. The West Concord School building built in 1902 has been added to the National Registry of historic places. February 15, 2021. (Ken Klotzbach / kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)

WEST CONCORD — It's been years since anyone attended high school in West Concord, but that doesn't mean the old building isn't worth a visit.

Last month, West Concord High School – now home to the West Concord Historical Society Museum & Community Center – was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Built in 1902, the school's architect, Fremont D. Orff, designed several other Minnesota buildings on the National Register including courthouses in Waseca and Renville counties, and the Carnegie Library in Little Falls.

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"We were told both sides of your building were designed by noted architects, so that helps a little in the favor of us being eligible," said Colleen Hayne, president of the West Concord Historical Society.

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Hayne said she attended school in the building. A room that is now a replica of the Flame Room, which was the dining room at the local hotel, was her first-grade classroom.

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A room is devoted to high-school memorabilia in the West Concord Museum. The West Concord School building built in 1902 has been listed on the National Registry of historic places. February 15, 2021. (Ken Klotzbach / kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)

The building was added onto twice. The first time was in 1914 when the state insisted the school offer industrial arts and home economics in order to be certified as a high school, Hayne said. That addition was built on the south side of the original building. Then, in 1935 the Works Progress Administration offered a grant to add to the building's north side.

The WPA addition, completed in 1936, included a library, a gymnasium with a theater stage, and a gathering room for the high school students. The WPA addition came with skylights that helped light the rooms during the day.

Hayne said the historical society, which was formed in 1994 shortly after buying the old building for $1 when it was being abandoned as a school, hired Blue Planet Museum Consultants of Rochester in 2018 to conduct an assessment as to whether the building would be eligible to be on the register. After a six-month study, the answer was yes. The historical society used a second grant to have Blue Planet complete an application for the National Register.

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While the famous architect was one positive step, Blue Planet told the historical society that the clincher was that the school had been the lone edifice for education in the city for 56 years.

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Large skylights are featured in an activity room in the 1936 addition to the West Concord school. The West Concord Historical Society was recently able to get the West Concord School building listed on the National Registry of historic places. February 15, 2021. (Ken Klotzbach / kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)

"From 1902 to 1958, this complex was the only school for West Concord kids," Hayne said. "It was everything to the community the way schools used to be. It was grade school, high school -- the whole ball of wax."

Since 1992, West Concord students are part of the Triton Schools, a combination district with Claremont, Dodge Center and West Concord, and attend school in Dodge Center.

The West Concord Historical Society has put new life in the old building, keeping several displays in old classrooms. In addition to the Flame Room, there is a dedicated Veterans Room, the Heritage Room with items from life in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Fashion Room with ladies clothing from the early 1900s, the groovy '50s and '60s room, and a Classroom that features old desks and the implements of learning through the years.

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The West Concord School building built in 1902, left, and it's addition built in 1936 have recently been added to the National Registry of historic places. February 15, 2021. (Ken Klotzbach / kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)

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From a more practical standpoint, getting on the register allows the historical society to apply for large renovation grants through the Minnesota State Historical Society funding program.

"If we need $100,000, it's the only way we can accomplish that," she said.

And the museum does need funding. Hayne said they'd like to replace the roof, there are walls where the plaster and paint are peeling, there are outer walls that need tuckpointing, and the plumbing could stand to be replaced.

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Old class photos line the hallways of the West Concord Museum February 15, 2021. The school building that houses the museum was added to the National Registry of historic places. (Ken Klotzbach / kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)

When the museum was first started in the 1990s, "there were a lot of volunteers," Hayne said, "who transformed the school into a museum."

Today, she said, the museum needs volunteers as well as funding to help renovate the building. Fortunately, working at the museum is a job she can highly recommend.

"Everybody who works here loves it, so that's a good thing," Hayne said.

Dodge County entries in the National Register

Dodge County has 11 sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Five are in Kasson, two each in Mantorville and West Concord, one in Wasioja, and one in Canisteo Township.

Ole Carlson House: Located 8 miles south of Kasson in Canisteo Township. The historic farmhouse was finished in 1882.

Eureka Hotel: 101 Third Ave. SW, Kasson. The hotel was built along the tracks of the railroad that runs through Kasson in 1894.

Kasson Municipal Building: 12 W. Main St., Kasson. Built in 1917 and designed by Purcell & Elmslie in the Prairie School design.

Kasson Water Tower: Located in the 100 block of Fourth Avenue Northwest. The water tower has a limestone base and has been unaltered since its early days.

Kasson Public School: 101 Third Ave. NW, Kasson. Served as Kasson's only school, kindergarten through grade 12, from 1918 to 1954.

Jacob Leuthold Jr. House: 108 Second Ave. NW. Designed by Minnesota architects Frederick G. Kees and Serenus Colburn in 1905.

Mantorville and Red Wing Stage Road-Mantorville Section: Located near Fifth Street Northeast in Mantorville. Running for about 600 feet northeast from Fifth Street, the stagecoach road was built in 1855.

Mantorville Historic District: Located in downtown Mantorville. Including 24 properties, the historic district was built from 1854 to 1918 and includes the 1857 Hubbell House hotel, the Dodge County Courthouse, the Mantorville Opera House and more.

Wasioja Historic District: Located throughout Wasioja. The district's historic buildings include the Wasioja Baptist Church, Minnesota Seminary, Wasioja Township School, the Civil War recruiting station, and the Andrew Doig House.

Perry Nelson House: Located about 6 miles east of West Concord on Dodge County Road 22/560th Street. The Italianate farmhouse dates to 1870.

West Concord High School: 600 W. First St., West Concord. The town's only school from 1902-1958, the building was designed by Fremont D. Orff with a WPA addition completed in 1936.

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Colleen Hayne looks for her class photo in the West Concord Museum February 15, 2021. The West Concord School building built in 1902 has been added to the National Registry of historic places. (Ken Klotzbach / kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)

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Colleen Hayne, president of the West Concord Historical Society, climbs down the one of the stairways in the West Concord Museum February 15, 2021. The West Concord School building built in 1902 has been added to the National Registry of historic places. February 15, 2021. (Ken Klotzbach / kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)

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A police cap is a small piece if the historic memorabilia in the West Concord Museum. The West Concord School building that houses the museum has been added to the National Registry of historic places. February 15, 2021. (Ken Klotzbach / kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)

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Colleen Hayne, president of the West Concord Historical Society, looks at one of the rooms in need of repair in the West Concord Museum, February 15, 2021. The West Concord School building built in 1902 has been added to the National Registry of historic places. February 15, 2021. (Ken Klotzbach / kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)

Related Topics: HISTORYDODGE COUNTY
Brian Todd is the news editor at the Post Bulletin. When not at work, he spends time with his family, roots for the Houston Astros and watches his miniature dachshund sleep, which is why that dog is more bratwurst than hotdog. Readers can reach Brian at 507-285-7715 or btodd@postbulletin.com.
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