The “Gunderson School,” Clay County, MN

GSMostly a thing of the past, one-room schoolhouses used to dot the prairie in the Midwest, during the formative years of states like Minnesota and North Dakota.  As the towns grew, schools often consolidated and newer, bigger buildings were built.  Often the schoolhouses were simply abandoned, some were demolished, or some were repurposed into township halls, like today’s subject: The Moland Township Hall, formerly known as the “Gunderson School.”

IMG_4915Found in rural Clay County, in the flat, farm-country of northwestern Minnesota, outside of Dilworth, the Gunderson School has a unique look to it:  Instead of clapboard siding that the majority of schoolhouses exhibited, the school was designed with fieldstone collected from local farmers and cut into square blocks. The design was Art Deco, and the funding for the school came from the Works Progress Administration, similar to projects like the Brandon City Hall or Grey Eagle Village Hall.

The school was completed in 1936 during the Depression-era, when locals were put to work building infrastructure. Originally it was designated District #121, but locals commonly referred to it as the “Gunderson School” named such for the neaby farm family with whom the teacher stayed. It would later become rezoned as “District #6.”   A similar project, the American Legion in nearby Moorhead, MN, was completed in this same fashion (below) prior to the Gunderson building.

The architects were two recent NDSU grads, Allen Carter and George Meineke.  After successfully designing the American Legion, their work was again enlisted for District #121 prairie schoolhouse between Dilworth and Glyndon just north of Highway 10.

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Photos courtesy Clay County Historical Society

The above photos of the school were taken by the Fargo Forum shortly after the school opened in the 1930’s. The school remained open until 1949 when District #6 merged with the Glyndon district. Since then it’s been the Moland Township Hall. It hasn’t changed much since then, nor will it likely anytime soon.

While in the area:   The old schoolhouse isn’t far from the big concrete dog statue outside of Dilworth, or swing into Moorhead to look at the Hjemkomst Viking Ship.

3 thoughts on “The “Gunderson School,” Clay County, MN

  1. My cousin Becky Skrei found this article and has shared it with other relatives and friends some of whom attended the Gunderson School and have helped identify the students in the picture shown and another one of students of a later year but includes some in the earlier picture including my cousin Dick. Would like to hear from anyone interested that may have additional information. Trying to obtain “memories” from those who are still around.

  2. It was my understanding that the land for the school was donated by the Gunderson family which then led to the name similar to the Grover school on land donated by the Grover family. My father and grandfather went to this school as well as other members of my family. The teachers were mostly students from Moorhead Teacher’s State College finishing up their certifications were required to student teach.

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