Mostly 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.”
Found 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.
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.