Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Saturday, December 4, 2021

School Architecture in Sherburne county


While researching a general topic of education in Sherburne County, a greater understanding of the architecture of schoolhouses emerged.  By this I suggest that searching for details of the large, brick, near-monumental schools in Sherburne County reveals an interesting pattern. 

The best known of the large schools in Sherburne County resides in Elk River.  In 1883, fire destroyed the Elk River school.  A fire resistant, brick building replaced the destroyed structure.  A two-story edifice, a school for all grades opened its doors.  This building is the first of the large, semi-permanent edifices that pre-dates education reform and expands the possibilities for education in Sherburne County. 

First brick schoolhouse in Elk River pre-1900

The first graduating class of this new Elk River school matriculated in 1888.  Eleven years later, in 1899 the state of Minnesota advanced education in Sherburne County.  That year, the School Law passed through the legislature requiring school attendance for all children between the ages of 8 and 16.  The law seemed less than stringent, as the required attendance demanded only 12 weeks per year, and at least six consecutive weeks.  Yet, failure to comply with the law could result in fines up to $20. 

With the passage of the School Law, attendance in Sherburne County schools increased dramatically.  And the demand for larger schools increased.  In 1903, Big Lake opened the doors for its well-known school.  In less than a year, newspapers rated the Big Lake School as one of the best in the area.  In January 1904, the school claimed an enrollment of over one hundred students.

Becker school circa 1916

Becker soon joined the movement towards larger, and better schools.  In January 1906, the two-story, brick school building opened for students.  The school offered classes from grade one to twelve.  Before long student needs out-grew the building.  The teaching staff continued to grow and by 1916, attendance demanded additions made to the building.   

Beginning in the 1890s and continuing into the early 1900s, interest in education grew and enrollment in schools increased dramatically.  Discussions over increasing the number of school districts and the availability of educational resources seemed common topics.  Yet, the enhanced, semi-permanent, brick,  school buildings in the larger communities of Sherburne County suggests the importance of education in the county grew significantly during this time.


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