First 1-room schoolhouse in Clay County named to National Register of Historic Places – InForum

ROLLAG, Minnesota — Over a century ago, the Rollag Woodland School was built among rolling hills as the first one-room schoolhouse in Clay County.

Now 130 years later on Jan. 11, the school located at 10389 280th St. S., became listed and protected in the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.

Two years ago, Steve Martens, a retired North Dakota State University professor, was hired through grant money by the Minnesota Historical Society to evaluate the schoolhouse for recognition.

He praised the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County (HCSCC) for their work over the years.

“I am just especially happy for the people who worked so hard to keep that place maintained and keep it a part of their community and their heritage,” Martens said.

Interior of the Rollag Woodland School in 2021.

CS Hagen / The Forum

First opened as a log house in 1872, the building was remodeled into its current state in 1896. The schoolhouse held grades 1-8 in the same room.

Built on a one-acre flat of land, the school is a one-story, gable-roofed, wood-framed rectangular structure sheathed in weatherboard siding. A bell tower sits at the peak of the roof over the front facade, according to the Minnesota Department of Administration State Historic Preservation Office.

In 1950, a woodshed at the rear of the school was converted into a dry closet toilet room.

The school operated until 1961 when it was purchased by the HCSCC and remains a museum.

Every year before Labor Day, the building is used during the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion, where people gather to reminisce.

The design, materials and workmanship of the building’s exterior remain unchanged, except that the HCSCC replaced the stone foundation with concrete in 1984. Window trim, siding and corner boards all appear to be original, according to the Minnesota Department of Administration State Historic Preservation Office .

Rollag is a township roughly 12 miles south of Hawley.

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