The Evolution of White Bear Lake’s First High School

As early as 1913, the White Bear school board was planning for a new, larger building to be the home of high school classes. Prior to that, students went to North St. Paul or St. Paul for their high school education, or attended classes in a variety of locations within White Bear, including the upper floor of a downtown shop, and eventually the Washington School on Fourth Street. By 1910 and even after several expansions, Washington School was bursting at its seams and could no longer even contain its regular enrollment of lower-grade students, much less the high school.

Like all major investments, even though the need was evident, the cost was daunting. In 1913, the school board bought the land where the present district center sits. At that time, the land to the north was being developed by the Ramsey County Agricultural Society for the county fairgrounds. Community input was sought, and the decision was made to construct a school building that would make White Bear proud.

Local contractor William H. Jackson was awarded the contract, and in 1918 ground was broken. The original building consisted of the section between the two stairwell bays that bookend the structure. The design was clean and stately. The building was outgrown almost immediately. Over the summer of 1924, wings were added to the north and south ends of the building.

In 1935, a gymnasium and auditorium were added, and in the 1950s, a large addition was built to allow for the community’s population boom and expanding enrollment. After the “new” White Bear High School was opened in 1964, the original building was used to house Central Junior High School. Today, a portion remains as Central, and the original space is now used as the district center.

Sara Markoe Hanson is the executive director of the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society.