A fact that may be surprising is that Proctor’s academic community didn’t make its prominent start in either the East Side School or Summit School; it actually occurred on the current location of Immanuel Lutheran Church, which incidentally denotes the center of Proctor’s first main street. Commonly referred to as West Side School, it was also known as Washington School.

Here, Proctor’s first proper school was built in 1893 by the DM&N Railway. Originally a one-room primary schoolhouse that expanded to hold numerous rooms and high school-aged students, the physical building may best be known not for its size, but for its color. During the building of the school, an excess of dark green paint used for the DM&N Railway cars brought “Missabe Green” to the exterior of the new school. Students later selected this color green as the school color (with complementary white) in tribute to the “old school.” (Interestingly enough, this same hue of green also adorned the only nationally registered piece of history to come out of Proctor:  the DM&N’s Northland, the 1916 executive train car of the Railroad president. This car is now preserved in the Duluth Depot’s Lake Superior Railroad Museum.)

West Side School
West Side School (aka Washington School) // Courtesy of the Proctor Area Historical Society

Of course, the school building was known for other things – but few good. The building’s size was minimal, and when high school classes were introduced in the upstairs room of the school circa 1908, each grade was assigned only a row of desks. In the northwest corner of the upper room was a “kitchen” with a sink and drain but no running water. On the ground floor, in a hole called the “cellar,” was a furnace and its coal bin, which jointly failed to heat the first floor, but scorched the second.

Despite its inadequacies, the building served its purpose and eventually garnered Proctor’s first graduates – five young women – in 1912. For the next five years, the school would come to graduate 18 girls and two boys before high school classes were transferred to the new East Side School in 1917. After elementary students were transferred into the new Summit School in 1923, the school district sold its now-vacant West Side School and the school’s four lots to Immanuel Lutheran Church on September 7, 1924, for $1,350.

The growing congregation of Immanuel Lutheran Church, which formerly met in the Proctor YMCA, soon renovated the school building to create a nave on the first floor and Sunday school classrooms on the second. But after steady growth of the congregation for a decade, in 1936, the membership decided to build a new building on the same site, disassembling the “cracker box structure” that fostered Proctor’s educational start. And interesting facet of this rebuilding is that much of the wood from the original West Side School was reused to build the new church building.

Bookmarking the center of Proctor’s original town site, the location of West Side School not only gives evidence to a drastic change between the early days of Proctorknott and today’s City, but also the importance of education in the Proctor community from its very beginning.