Education has always been a priority for Northfield residents. The first schoolhouse was built because of Ann North less than a year after the town was founded.
It is thought to be the first school in Rice County. A few years later the school was moved to the more durable Drake building, located at the junction of County Road 1 and Hwy. 246. The building has since been demolished.
In 1874, the building pictured here was built for $35,000 on Union Street.
The school’s first class consisted of seven girls, who graduated in 1877. Until the building was badly burned in a fire in 1908, most of the children in the area attended school in the building. Grades one through six attended school on the first floor; high school was on the second floor; and fifth grade was held on the third floor. Seventh and eighth grade were held in other buildings in town.
The building caught fire on the night of May 2, 1908. It burned from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., presenting the fire department one of the hardest blazes they had ever faced.
The fire was located in the basement so there was no way to get to it. Contrary to what might be expected, many people in Northfield hoped the building would burn to the ground. The reported, “Most of those present did not refrain from expressing the hope that the building would be totally destroyed.”
While their wishes for the schoolhouse were not fulfilled outright, the building was torn down in 1909, because it was so badly damaged, in order to make way for a new building.
In 1911, a new high school was built for $90,000. At the time it was considered the ideal school building. An auditorium was added in 1937, as well as an east wing/gymnasium in 1954. Even with the addition of the east wing, population growth outstripped the space the school could provide. To cope with space issues the high school was moved to its current location in 1967, with renovations occurring around 2004.
The old high school building became the , until the middle school was moved next to the high school in 2004. The old middle school building currently holds the Northfield School Museum.
Lee, Iris E.“Northfield has made education a priority.” Northfield News 16 Mar 2005.
“Northfield News” 14 Aug. 1969 Clipping.