"The Grand Old Lady," the building that houses Grand Forks Central High School, is celebrating her 100th birthday Thursday, and everyone is invited.

Events start with a gathering and musical entertainment on the front lawn, followed by remarks by distinguished alumni and others.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

Mike Berg, retired football coach and teacher, will offer his perspective and speak on behalf of Andrew Towne, Class of 2000, who is thought to be the first North Dakotan to scale Mt. Everest. Towne, of Minneapolis, is unable to attend the event.

For the past year, a committee of 10 alumni and current and former staff members have met regularly to plan for a year of activities to mark the milestone. They decided not to select distinguished alumni to honor during Homecoming this week and, instead, focus on the building.

"We hoped to show how connected alumni are to this building," said Mike Wilber, committee member and alumnus who teaches social studies at Central. "It's more than a building. It's flesh and blood. We hope students will see that connection-and how it has shaped their lives."

Several alumni have been invited to speak as panelists each morning this week, through Wednesday, in the auditorium to tell students what Central has meant to them.

Efforts to inform students about the school's history include the tweets about aspects of its past that staff member Trevor Lennon is sending daily to students in the 100 days leading up to Homecoming.

A series of 8-by-4-foot historic murals, donated by alumni, will also be displayed throughout the school.

The venerable GFC building is admired by architectural experts and educators far beyond this area who comment on how well-built and -maintained it is, committee members said.

Editors of "Architectural Digest" magazine selected it for inclusion on its list of "The Most Beautiful Public School in Every State in America." They call it "the oldest North Dakota high school still in operation."

In 1917, the building cost $214,380 which equates, in buying power, to almost $3 million today, Wilber said. It replaced the original school, known simply as Central School, which opened in 1882.

The quality of materials used in its construction reflects the "pride of public spaces" that people embraced in the early 1900s, said Associate Principal Jon Strandell, member of the building centennial committee.

The cost of replicating the structure today, using those types of materials, would be unthinkable, Strandell said, noting "the architectural detail, the marble, the granite, the terrazzo."

But the building represents more than its physical features, he said. "It's who we are."

"You don't find materials like these in high schools anywhere," said Wilber.

He and others cited custodial care and the respect staff and students have for the building.

"Grand Forks has made significant investments to make it like it is," said Wilber, noting several additions and renovations voters have approved.

He and others are looking forward to welcoming people into the building.

"I think people will really be interested (to tour)," said Gasparini, retired health teacher and committee member, "because it's changed, but they've tried to keep it consistent" with original features.

GFC Building Centennial Celebration - Thursday, Sept. 28

4:30 p.m. - Public Gathering (front lawn)

5 p.m. - National Anthem, Speakers

5:25 p.m. - School Song

5:30 p.m. - Alumni Picture (front steps)

5:45 p.m. - Food (provided by GFC Booster Club, north parking lot)

6:30 p.m. - Guided Tours of the School

7:30 p.m. - Musical Program: "Grand Forks Central Through the Decades"