Photos from Old Central's 1890s Classroom and Clock Tower - Perfect Duluth Day

Photos from Old Central’s 1890s Classroom and Clock Tower

This oil painting of Old Central was donated to the school in 1970 by the class of 1949. It was painted by Central alum Jo Kossett.

The original Central High School, which later became Duluth Public Schools’ Central Administration Building, aka Historic Old Central, will soon enter its next phase. Saturday Properties, a development and management firm based in St. Louis Park, plans to turn the Richardsonian Romanesque-style building into 121 mixed-income apartments. The project is called Zenith DCHS.

Collected in this post are images from inside the 1890s Classroom Museum at Old Central and the interior of the building’s clock tower, shot during a tour on July 2.

It’s not known how much longer the Historic Old Central High School Museum Committee will be able to offer tours, but at least two more are scheduled — July 23 and Aug. 6. Call one of the numbers on the website to schedule a tour.

It’s also not yet known where the school’s memorabilia will be displayed after the building is sold.

Central was called Duluth High School when it opened at 215 N. First Ave. E. in 1892. The building was designed by the Duluth firm of Emmet S. Palmer and Lucien P. Hall and constructed with Lake Superior brownstone. A new Central High School at 800 Central Entrance opened in 1971, and the original building was converted into the school district’s administrative offices.

Central High School closed at the end of the 2010-’11 school year as the school district consolidated into two high schools — East and Denfeld. The Duluth School Board recently approved the sale of the other Central High School to Saturday Properties, so the developer is planning mixed housing projects at both former Central schools. The project on Central Entrance is called Saturday Central Heights.

The 2011 Central yearbook represents the year Denfeld students attended Central while Denfeld was being renovated prior to Central closing. Therefore, the final Zenith doubled as Denfeld’s yearbook, the Oracle.

For more than 60 years, Central had a natural history museum on the third floor. The collection included more than 7,000 items, including wildlife and mineral samples. A few of the items are on display in the 1890s classroom at Central, many more are at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

The mannequin in the image above represents Miss Southworth, the school’s “most popular teacher.” The relief maps on the wall are “copyright 1893.”

Yes, there is more memorabilia in the clock tower.

The bell is located one more floor up, but the stairs are more like a ladder and it’s been deemed unsafe to let random bozos go up there. There is another post on Perfect Duluth Day that offers a video tour of the clock tower, however.

We close with footage of the E. Howard & Co. clock mechanism at work as the “Westminster Chimes” sound out on the three-quarter hour.

1 Comment

Paul Lundgren

about 2 years ago

Update: The Saturday Central Heights project is no longer being pursued by Saturday Properties. The company notified the Duluth School Board on March 7, 2022, that it will not be purchasing the property. 

The Zenith DCHS project at Old Central is still in the works, however. The sale of the building closed on Feb. 9. 

Duluth News Tribune: Central High School property sale not moving forward

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