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Devils Lake Central High School


Fifty years ago the National Historic Preservation Act was created to help preserve the diverse archaeological and architectural treasures of America.

Education has always played an important part throughout the history of North Dakota, and in Devils Lake, the first school opened in a temporary location in November of 1883. Four years later, the first framed school building was constructed. It was soon inadequate for the rapid growth in the Lake Region and in 1893, a new red brick school was built. With the addition of buildings for grade schools, the “Little Red School House” was able to continue in operation for almost thirty years, but by the end of the 1920s an effort was mounted to build a new school. In 1930, when F. H. Gilliland was hired as Superintendent of the Devils Lake School District, he set his sights on a new building. Securing $160,000 from the Works Progress Administration, he managed to lead a matching $175,000 bond drive. With local architect John Marshall and St. Cloud architect Nairne Fisher providing the plans, the school became a reality.

Now known as the Central Middle School, the old Central High School was constructed in 1936 and dedicated in 1937, in the mist of the Great Depression. Situated at the end of 4th Avenue on a T-intersection, the imposing, Art Deco structure commands the attention of people looking north from the central business district. A few blocks south of the high school stands the World War Memorial Building in a complimentary Art Deco style.

Central High School is a two-story, symmetrical building with a partial basement and a flat roof. The entire building is brick with highlights of limestone. There is little ornamentation, giving it a clean, modern look. The main entrance is enhanced with pilasters or inset columns that project vertically from the base to the roof. The front windows are also decorated with vertical pilasters carved into the limestone. The original building was U-shaped with a large, integrated auditorium projecting from the northwest corner on the rear of the building. Large rectangular windows line the exterior and provide natural lighting with sunken windows on the northeast corner providing natural light to the music room. The interior contains terrazzo floors in the halls with maple wood in the classrooms. Ornamental plaster adorns the walls throughout the building.

On this date in 2003, Devils Lake Central High School was added to the National Register of Historic Places. After eighty years it remains a proud symbol of North Dakota’s commitment to quality education.

Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis

Source: National Register of Historic Places- Central High School, Devils Lake, National Park Service, Department of the Interior, 2003