Old Version of the History Page

From Central's Website

January 2007



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Two rooms set aside of the third floor of the Franklin Building, to become high school for about one dozen students


First graduating class from Central High School. One boy and one girl were the first graduates.


Central High School moved to 7th and Jackson. The new school occupied the entire second floor.

Graduating class of five boys and seven girls


A new building was built for Central, which was 27 rooms. A 14-room annex was added in 1888, as was an astronomical observatory.


Central built in current location, Lexington and Marshall

By this time, Central had almost 2900 students
A fire delays recontsruction of the Central building for 2 months
Quest program started by 2 teachers who wanted to offer in-depth humanities topics
International Baccalaureate (IB) comes to Central
Central recieves "Blue Ribbon Schools Award"


Origin of Central

Before 1866, there was no educational opportunities in St. Paul after grade school. About a dozen students wished to continue their schooling so two rooms were set aside for the "High School" on the third floor of the Franklin building. Some people thought that the school was a waste of space. Mrs. Haynes was the lone teacher and Eugene Foster (known as the "Father of the High School") was the principal. The first graduating class of the “St. Paul High School” was in 1870. The graduating class consisted of two students: one girl and one boy. The girl's name was Fannie Hayes (the daughter of the teacher) and the boy's name was A. P. Warren. The two first graduates were presented with diplomas by Miss Fannie Hayneswith. The first 2 diplomas were hand printed on sheepskin. Gradually, the classes enrolled in the Franklin Building became too large for the two little rooms to accommodate them.

In 1872, the St. Paul High School moved to 7th and Jackson street where it occupied the whole second floor. That year, graduation exercises were held in the St. Paul Civic Opera House where they were held until it was destroyed by a fire in 1899. Then the commencement exercises were held in the People's Church until the completion of the St. Paul Auditorium. In 1872, the graduating class consisted of five boys and seven girls. In 1873, the graduating class of twelve students originated the custom of presenting each senior with a souvenir appropriate to his/her character. For several years, a prize was offered for the best essay; a Webster's Unabridged Dictionary and a holder for it. The President of the Board of Education also presented a prize to the one having the highest standing in the class, usually a fine set of Shakespeare's works.

By 1879, the teaching staff had increased to eight teachers and a principal. The hours were from nine to twelve in the morning and one to four in the afternoon; a fifteen minute recess was offered in the morning or afternoon. That year the building at 7th and Jackson was finally determined to be ill-suited for a high school. The first floor of the building was occupied by a dry goods store and a fresh fish market. In the warm weather, the aroma from the fish market rising to the second floor was nearly unbearable. To make matters worse, the building was infested with rats. A sign over one door reminded the pupils this was their "last chance for an education." In the annual report of the school board in 1879, they declared that although the school was a pleasing view on the outside, the atmosphere inside was "morally, socially and physically unhealthy". The rooms were noisy, ill-ventilated and sunless. The report that the School Board made in 1879 of the true condition of affairs in the High school, aroused the city council to take action, and a proposition of bonds for a new high school to be made. This suggestion was rejected, but it was remade in 1881 and was passed by 3,000 votes. Work was begun immediately. The site chosen was on 10th and Minnesota Street.

In 1883, this 27-room building was completed and the school was named "The Saint Paul Central High". The first enrollment of the new school was a total of 233 students. In 1888, a 14-room annex was added for laboratories. but there was no money for an astronomical observatory. The Debate society decided to put on plays to make up the money to pay for it. Soon, Central was known as the only high school in the United States to have a fixed telescope with a telescopic glass polished by the late Alvan Clark. Mechanics Arts High School, then known as Manual Training High School, was first housed in the basement of Central.

Soon the building on 10th and Minnesota Street became too small, and the corner of Lexington and Marshall Avenues was chosen as the new site. It was at first thought appropriate to rename the school "Lexington", however during the week before the laying of the cornerstone (in April, 1912), the alumni prevailed upon the Board to keep the name "Central". Around this time the Minuteman was adopted as the schools logo.

By 1936, Central had a student body of approximately 2900 students, overwhelmingly white and predominately middle class. Streetcar lines, the only form of public transportation in the 1930’s, were important for the largely scattered student body. There were 3 available, University, Rondo-Maria, and Selby-Lake. During World War II, the street cars were sold to Mexico City and the rails and electrical cables sold for scrap. Buses replaced the streetcars and by the 50’s & 60’s, many students began to drive. During this time, Interstate 94 was built and sliced the the Rondo neighborhood that surrounded Central nearly down the middle. This split changed the area near Central dramatically. Between 1902 and 1955, Central graduated 11 Rhode scholars - more than any other public school in the US.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Central underwent a dramatic remodeling project. This was done in part to modernize facilities and, for some, to give Central a unique design more accessible to its community. It was originally planned to have the students move from the building for a year so that the construction could take place without disturbances. However, the vocal members of the community would not permit “the St. Paul School” to be vacant for even 1 year, so other plans needed to be made. School started at 7am and they were released by noon when the workers arrived. In may of 1980, a fire damaged mainly the 5th floor delaying construction 2 months. By September 1st, the remodeling project was complete and the castle-like, “school on the hill” was no longer recognizable. The interior of the school was also greatly changed, except that the auditorium offers a glimmer of familiarity with the former school. The school opened with students from all around the city interested in the vast amount of educational programs. Areas such as dance, music recording, auto repair and a wide range of foreign languages, were not available in many other places in the city or the surrounding suburbs.

In 1970, 2 teachers started the Quest program to offer in-depth topics in the humanities not available in general survey classes. Classes were offered in topics such as Ancient Civilizations, Shakespeare and American Indian Studies. 1987 brought to Central the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. As the years passed the program grew and now IB exams are offered in math, English, social studies, world languages, and art. With programs such as these Central as earned the reputation as a exceptional urban high school. Between the years of 1995 and 2000 Central graduated more National Merit Finalists and Finalists than any other Minnesota school.

In 1998, due to qualities like strong leadership, clear vision, a high-level of teaching and challenging up-to-date curriculum, Central was given the “Blue Ribbon Schools Award” from the Department of Education. As Central moves into its 2nd look at a turn of a century, it continues to educate, challenge, and reflect the changing American population.

Central Hall Of Fame






Mail 275 North Lexington Parkway - Saint Paul, MN 55104 • Phone (651) 632-6000 • Fax (651) 293-5433
Email (brian.reinhardt@spps.org) with any questions/comments about Central's website.
St. Paul Public School System, District #625