A mainstay in Proctor for nearly 90 years, the East Side School is widely known as one of the most recent notable buildings to be removed from the community. However, it should also be remembered as Proctor School District’s first foray into developing prominent educational facilities for its students.
Not surprisingly, Proctor didn’t have a high school in the early 1900s. In those early days, a small population (mostly comprised of Railroad workers) did not draw the need to have such a building, forcing teenagers in the community to ride the Bay View Incline down to Duluth Denfeld if they chose to further their education. However, as time brought community growth, high school classes started to be held in the upstairs room of the West Side School. With few people and limited room (each grade was assigned one row of desks), this venue was perfect for the small capacity. But continued growth soon created the need for a larger space.
In 1916 ground was broken on the corner of Third Street and First Avenue to accommodate such growth, and in 1917 the building – dubbed the “Manual Training High School” – was completed by the DM&N Railroad at a cost of $100,000 – half of which was paid by the Railroad itself. Among its three stories, the building included a gymnasium/auditorium, “bench room,” and rooms for sewing, cooking, and dining on the basement level; a 24-foot by 20-foot library on the first floor; and “study rooms,” “lecture rooms,” and “recitation rooms” throughout the first and second floors. These facilities were the first to welcome students grades 10 through 12 upon the High School’s opening.
The first school year in the new building (1918-1919) came to be an important year for Proctor High School. During this year, dark green and white were selected as the school colors, the first edition of the “Proctorian” was published, and the school became state-accredited. Although only 10 students – three boys and seven girls – were a part of that first graduating class, this class was arguably the most influential in setting an environment of Proctor’s academic traditions, which were soon expanded upon by the school’s first state athletic appearance in 1918 and the first publication of the student paper (“The Mallet”) in 1925. In its first two months of its first school year, the building also wasn’t used as a school; in the tail end of the Spanish Flu epidemic and in the midst of the Fires of 1918, the school acted as a hospital for an ailing population, setting Proctor Schools’s precedence of service in Proctor. With a strong base of tradition and Alexander Ivan (A. I.) Jedlicka serving as Proctor’s superintendent starting in 1918, even greater change was yet to come.
The first big change was an addition to the Manual Training High School in 1921, with a price tag of $78,000. Six years after the district was reorganized in 1949, another addition – a vocational wing that included agriculture, audio-visual, commercial, and music departments – was constructed in 1955, costing $136,000 and marking the end of using canvas fire chutes for fire drills. In 1957, a junior high addition – including 18 classrooms, storage facilities, two teachers’ rest rooms, a nurse’s office, administrative offices, and a gymnasium – now attached grades seven through nine in Jedlicka Junior High School onto Proctor High School, costing $950,000. Despite continued additions, the now-consolidated Junior High and Senior High School couldn’t keep up with the demand for space.
In the 1970s, the overflowing building was addressed with the reconstruction of Summit School into the new Proctor High School. And in 1983, grades 10 through 12 moved to the new Proctor High School, and grades five through nine then fully utilized the East Side School as Jedlicka Junior High School.
After years of a slowly deteriorating Jedlicka Junior High School, a second consolidation of the middle and high school students was made a reality in 2004, when grades six through nine were transferred into a new wing of Proctor High School. When this transfer was complete, a majority of the original East Side School was torn down. Today, the building’s remnants are utilized as a senior citizens’ apartment complex, and a fenced-in area across the street shows remnants of the school’s recess yard.
Now only existing in partial remnants, one of Proctor’s first educational buildings is physically gone. Nevertheless, it continues to live on through the memories it hosted for Proctor students and staff throughout its lengthy tenure.