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Central alums mark alma mater's centennial

Posted by: Steve Brandt under Parks and recreation, People and neighborhoods, Politics and government, Urban living Updated: July 3, 2013 - 2:14 PM

 

 

It takes some loyalty for alumni of a school to stick together more than 30 years after its closing but grads of Central High School will be gathering in August to mark the centennial of the last incarnation of the demolished school.

Central school had the oldest lineage of any Minneapolis high school when it was shuttered in 1982, along with West and Marshall-University high schools.

The Collegiate Gothic-style building (above) that stood for 69 years on 4th Avenue S. at E. 34th Street opened  in 1913.  It got its name because it replaced a school of the same name that actually was central —located in downtown Minneapolis.

The school that became Central was organized in 1860, and classes originally met in the Winslow House on the St. Anthony side of the river, a site that’s now home to townhouses at the end of the Central Avenue Bridge. The high school got its own downtown building (right) in 1878 on 11th street, after squatting in two other locations, including a school located where City Hall now sits.

An impressive list of talent graduated from Central, from musician Prince to broadcaster Eric Sevareid.  Some of the school’s other notables include Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, actress Ann Sothern ,  Yankee catcher John Blanchard, Gov. Orville Freeman, columnist Cedric Adams, Lakers coach John Kundla, actor Eddie Albert, jazz keyboardist Bobby Lyle, sportswriter and broadcaster Halsey Hall, sculptor Paul Granlund, real estate developer and manager Archie Givens, ballpark beer vendor Walter E. McNeil (below), Judge Pamela Alexander, and Metropolitan Community College President Earl Bowman. That college held its first classes on Central’s fourth floor.

There certainly was demand for Central’s added capacity, rated at 1600 students, as the city rapidly expanded southward.  With South located where the Little Earth housing project now sits, and West where the Uptown Y is now located, Central was the school farthest in the vanguard of population growth.  By 10 years after the school’s opening, enrollment hit 3,539, or almost 300 more than the state’s current biggest high school in Wayzata. There was talk of double shifts but the opening of Washburn and Roosevelt in the 1920s relieved that pressure.

By the 1960s, enrollment fell below 1,200. By the baby bust of the late 1970s and early 1980s, it was clear that the city’s high schools were overbuilt, and Central was one of three chosen for closing, The school’s age and the cost to remodel it worked against it, and it fell to the wrecking ball.  The stadium next door was converted to housing. The only remnant is the gym built next door, which was built in 1976.  Green Central Community School now occupies the site.

That’s a history that alumni continue to celebrate.  The centennial reunion will be held on Aug. 10 from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the gym. There will be a social hour followed by a short program. Among the scheduled speakers is Joyce Jackson, the last of 11 Central principals. More information is available at http://www.mplschs.org/index.asp or by calling 612-866-0282       
 

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