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Historic Preservation Month: Grand Forks Schools, Part 1


May is National Historic Preservation Month. So today, we share another story of North Dakota additions to the National Register of Historic Places. 

Due to population growth following World War II, the need arose for more schools in Grand Forks. The new schools constructed between 1949 and 1965 were in the mid-century style. Showcasing flat roofs, rows of windows, brick and steel construction, and using greenspace, these schools drew on the skills of local architects and marked the progression of the budding population. 

Samuel Teel DeRemer was a local Grand Forks architect who was born in New Jersey in 1896. His family moved to Grand Forks in 1902, and his architect father, Joseph Bell DeRemer, designed a number of buildings in the growing town, before leaving for Los Angeles. He returned to Grand Forks in 1919 and entered into a partnership with his son Samuel. After the senior DeRemer retired in 1937, Samuel continued to work in the region, eventually forming the firm DeRemer, Harrie, and Kennedy. 

DeRemer designed Lewis and Clark Elementary, which was built in 1953, anchoring the neighborhood as Grand Forks pushed southward. In 1955, he designed a mid-century style gymnasium that was added to the old Wilder Elementary, a 19th-century structure. The school was eventually rebuilt to match the newer gymnasium. That project was handled by another architect firm, Wells-Denbrook, the same firm that would also add an addition to Lewis and Clark Elementary.

Viking Elementary was built in 1957. Designed by Samuel DeRemer’s firm, it was located just ten blocks south of Lewis and Clark, denoting again how enrollments had increased. The firm of DeRemer, Harrie, and Kennedy also designed Ben Franklin Elementary in 1960, as well as its addition in the late 1980s, maintaining compatibility with the original design.

Typical to mid-century schools, greenspace was important in all of these projects. Lewis and Clark was adjacent to a playground, a sports field, and to a public outdoor pool. Viking Elementary was near Cox Park and a playground. Ben Franklin has no basement, so it had a larger footprint. The building was constructed with a courtyard allowing natural light into the hallways. All these buildings in the mid-century style showcased the typical flat roof, and long rows of windows. 

 Listen next week to hear more about these schools as we continue to acknowledge "National Historic Preservation Month.”

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker


West Elementary School National Register of Historic Places Registration Form

Valley Junior High School National Register of Historic Places Registration Form 

Wilder Elementary School National Register of Historic Places Registration Form

Ben Franklin Elementary School National Register of Historic Places Registration Form

Who’s Who for North Dakota 1955



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