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Roosevelt celebrates centennial school year

The boiler that was put in when Roosevelt Elementary School was built was originally created in 1922 and installed in the school in 1923.

The oldest school still standing in Minot, Roosevelt Elementary School, will be celebrating its 100th school year with an open house on Tuesday, Feb. 27, from 4-7 p.m.

Joe Weigand, of Medora, who plays the role of Theodore Roosevelt, will be at the open house in his Roosevelt attire.

Caleen Larson, Roosevelt Elementary School’s librarian, went through boxes at the school and found Parent-Teacher Association meeting notes dating back to 1923. Measures have been taken to ensure the preservation of the documents, as they were handwritten before the age of technology took over that task. The writing is clearly visible and legible, 101 years later. Although the pages have yellowed with age, their physical integrity has not been compromised.

Most of them were put together scrapbook-style, combining writing and pictures on the same page. To keep the entire year’s worth of PTA notes together and protected, they were put into binders. These books will be available to all for viewing during the open house.

To Larson’s surprise, during her interview with The Minot Daily News, it was discovered in the 1929-1930 PTA book that Roosevelt Elementary’s doors opened for class on Jan. 18, 1923.

The blue boiler in Roosevelt Elementary School is the newer one that was installed in 1984 when the original stopped working.

“See, that’s interesting to know,” she said, “because I thought it would have been September. So it is a little older than we think, but that’s okay. We’re still 100 years old.”

According to the school’s historical information, when Roosevelt Elementary School was first constructed in 1923, it was a small two-story building. The boiler that was put in was actually built before the school itself. It was lowered into position and concrete was poured around it. The cast iron boiler, powered by coal to heat the building, was embossed with the year 1922.

The boiler finally went out in 1984, so the school needed to get a new one. It is made of steel instead of cast iron and concrete and is much more efficient. To this day, the school still has hot water heat. The old boiler is still in its place. The only way to remove it would be to knock the school down.

When the building first opened, grades one through six were crammed into every classroom on both floors. The classrooms were big enough to hold a full class, but some of the rooms were very cramped for space.

The lunch room used to be two full classrooms, one of which was lucky enough to have the only fireplace in the school. Back in the early to mid-1900s, it was common practice for all of the children to go home for lunch and go back in the afternoon. With the different types of weather that come to North Dakota, there were certain times where the kids were not able to make it home, so they were allowed to bring their lunches to school and eat them at their desks. It was not until President Harry Truman signed the National School Lunch Act in 1946 that schools had their own cafeterias and served nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches.

This photo was taken of Roosevelt Elementary School in the 1950s.

The office area once was also two classrooms, as well as the room that is now the teachers’ lounge. The basement currently contains the music room.

French doors could be found in several places throughout the school, including inside the classrooms. Cabinets were built into the walls. As time went by, most of those wooden doors were removed and replaced by their metal counterparts.

Larson said the lantern bricks on the corners of the school entrances are her favorite ornate feature of the school. There is another pattern at the top of the school that caught her eye, and she is still digging to figure out if it has significant meaning.

Thirty-six years later, in 1959, the first addition was put on, giving the school a gymnasium and more classrooms.

“With the addition, there were three classrooms of every grade,” Larson said.

The original Roosevelt Elementary School’s structure has remained intact and the digital sign outside of the school was added.

“Right about the ’60s, our numbers would have pumped up,” Larson said, referencing the increase in attending students that came with the expansion.

The gym was so tiny that a person playing basketball was considered out-of-bounds if they touched the walls. There was not enough space to have boundary lines painted on the floor.

The addition was built on the south side of the original building, after finding bricks that were close to the same color. When construction began, the building had to be lifted by four inches to be level with the addition.

In 1988, Roosevelt received a second addition for a bigger gym. The staff now use the old gym as a multipurpose room. Carpet has been laid over the wooden basketball court. If the carpet were to be ripped up, the wood flooring is still intact. The bleachers were also small, but made of concrete. They are now surrounded by walls and used for storage space.

Over the years, things have been renovated and updated to be up to code. Windows that were made with wooden frames had to be replaced with metal ones. Doors were removed and the openings sealed with brick, which, unfortunately, do not match the rest of the building.

Some things, though, have stayed the same. One classroom still has the French doors and the teacher utilizes the cabinet. The banisters around all of the staircases are still the originals, as well. A good portion of the doors leading into the classrooms are solid wooden doors. Since they are in good condition and perfect working order, there has been no need to replace them.

The fireplace is still intact, as are the two benches that sit on either side of it. It appeared as though that particular spot was popular for gatherings, as that is where a lot of the group photos were taken several years ago.

A lot of the photos were Polaroids of school activities, but some also were of Boy Scout and Girl Scout activities.

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