Relics photo essay: the languishing Pipestone central school

A former school teacher living in Iowa bought the Pipestone school, along with one in neighboring Jasper, a decade ago, each for $1. The situation has been fraught with conflicts and delays ever since. The Pipestone school has been broken into repeatedly. Its roof is leaking. And it looks like Dick Haase, the developer, will let it go for back taxes.

How small communities around the state grapple with old, iconic buildings is the focus of our Ground Level project, Reviving Minnesota Relics.

Haase had a number of ideas for the enormous building over the years, including for senior housing. But because of various setbacks, the plans haven’t panned out. “I think the Pipestone school is a tremendous building that should be renovated for the people of Pipestone,” he said, adding, “I’m 79 years old. That’s getting up there. I don’t like climbing on roofs anymore.”

A last minute plan for the school could arise, but all indications are that it will eventually be torn down. “I don’t dislike the man,” said Pipestone County Board Chair Harold “Butch” Miller, of Haase. “But he was in way over his head.”

Location: 400 2nd Ave. SW

  • Alexander O’Dowd

    I was a student at that building in the 1999-2000 school year in 6th grade. I still remember how wonderful the building looked, the openness of the auditorium which was more of a grand theater, and all the hallways that led to all the different levels (and sub-levels) of the school. I also remember on extremely snowy days when I couldn’t walk home to 5th Ave by the Elementary School I would just go right into the adjoining public library and use a computer while I waited for a ride.

    I also remember when news reached us about them starting to let teachers go effective the end of that school year, and well substantiated rumors that the school building itself would be closing down because of the cost of bring the aging building up to fire code. Like most students there, I didn’t want the school to close, but I could understand it. What I didn’t understand was why they were letting teachers, who taught us not just how to pass but to imagine and excel, go.

    Myself and several other students over the course of one morning decided that we were going to have a peaceful protest of the decision to let the teachers go by leaving our classes and then congregating on the lawn at the front of the school. Around lunch time, the principal of the school came out and had police officers stationed at the doors and announced that we had 2 options available to us. We had until the lunch bell sounded, signaling that it was time for us to go back to class to re-enter the building and rejoin our classmates, or we would be locked out of the building, given unexcused absences, and would not be allowed to make up any of the homework/classwork we missed. I was one of the students that rejoined my classmates, as I believed nothing would be served by continuing the protest and our message was received.

    I moved away from Pipestone at the end of that school year as my father had just gotten a new pulpit to fill in Missouri. I still have not had a chance to go back to see how the town I had lived in from elementary to middle school had changed, and until today (8/11/14) I have always wondered if the building was still there, with someone taking care of it and restoring it, or if the building had been torn down. I hope, although looking at the photos I can already tell otherwise, that the building can building can be saved and restored to it’s former glory as a link to the past, something to be cherished. Unfortunately, even though the outer walls/shell of the building appear to be intact, the structural damage on the inside is extensive. I will miss that school, as I have missed my beloved Pipestone/Jasper Arrows.