History of White Bear Lake Area High School

by | Sep 2012

White Bear Lake Schoolhouse

The first schoolhouse in White Bear Lake was built in 1857 near the southeast corner of Murray Avenue and Third Street.

A lesson from the halls of old WBHS.

From the first classes being taught on the second floor of the building that still stands at the southeast corner of Banning Avenue and Third Street to the halls of South Campus on McKnight Road, approximately 39,000 students have graduated from White Bear High School in its 150-plus-year history. Formal education in White Bear Lake began in 1857, and a century later Independent School District 624 was formed and remains today.

The first two buildings, one known simply as “the schoolhouse” and the other named West Side School, were located along Murray Avenue at Third Street and Second Street respectively. The first schoolhouse was a one-room rural school, while the West Side School began as a one-room school in 1868 and added a second story in 1878.  Students attended the West Side School into the 1890s.

On the east side of White Bear Lake a “substantial and commodious structure” was built in 1888 containing four rooms, according to the White Bear Press. Located on Fifth Street between Stewart and Cook Avenues, Webster School was the pride of the community. At first, students on the east side attended Webster and students on the west side attended the West Side School. (Later all primary public school students in the district attended Webster School.) Students who wished to continue beyond eighth grade went to St. Paul schools. By the 1890s high school classes were being held in the meeting room on the second floor of what is now the site of Edward Jones Investments at Banning Avenue and Third Street.

In 1895 Washington School was built along Fourth Street between Miller and Murray avenues, and White Bear Lake now had a facility for students beyond the eighth grade.  The building was used throughout the years not only for high school students, but also as a State Normal School for the training of teachers and as the first site of what is now Century College.

By the time of the first World War it was apparent that White Bear Lake had yet again outgrown the current school facilities and needed another building. The main portion of the District Center on Bloom Avenue was built to be White Bear High School. Even after numerous additions, the school name proudly remains centered over the original portion.

In 1964 the architecturally modern White Bear High School, referred to by some as “the round school,” was built and the old high school was used as Central Junior High. Less than a decade later Mariner High School was built on the south side of White Bear Lake and the community was again split by geographic boundaries. In 1983 the two high schools combined to form White Bear High School. The 1964 White Bear High School serves as the north campus and houses the ninth- and tenth-grade classes, while the Mariner High School is now south campus and houses the 11th- and 12th-grade students. In addition to the traditional high school, Independent School District 624 has offered an alternative learning center for more than 20 years.

–Sara Markoe Hanson is the executive director of the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society. She is one of a handful of community representatives sharing history thoughts monthly on this back page. 651.407.5327


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