Background on the building and why the grassroots movement to save it is so important:
Jasper erected its first public school in 1888, a frame building that was used until the first native stone schoolhouse was built in 1893. Stone from the local quarry, Sioux Quartzite, the hardest building stone, was used. This school was razed in 1911 to make way for a new quartzite school building to house both elementary and high school.
In 1939, the district build a quartzite addition to the school including an auditorium-gymnasium, home ec, science room and laboratory, commercial room, industrial arts room, and several additional classrooms. In 1941 the first school buses and drivers began operating, and a hot lunch program was added.
In 1954, eleven rural school districts in Pipestone and Rock counties voted to consolidate with Jasper School District and the Hermanson School district just over the border in South Dakota.
In 1957, an agricultural room and laboratory, band and chorus rooms and practice rooms were added, and and agricultural shop was then added in 1959. In 1965, a final addition included a library, home economics department and science and business departments.
In 1993, the Jasper citizens voted to cooperate-consolidate with the neighboring Pipestone School District, and the last high school class graduated from Jasper High. In 1997, the arrival of a new superintendent with an agenda to pass a bond issue to build a new school for middle and high school for the district, began the budgetary concerns that eventually led to the district deciding to cut a shortfall by closing the recently remodeled (1995) Jasper School, much to the dismay of the town of Jasper, and the frustration of the citizens who had been promised that an elementary school would always remain in Jasper. In May, 2001, the school closed and the remaining K-4th grades were moved to Pipestone.
One local, Keith Eitreim, a longtime school board member, expressed the feelings of the residents perfectly, saying, “Our schools are the heartbeat of the community. After more than 100 years, the heartbeat is stopping… People who called Jasper Elementary their school will call it betrayal.”
As if that weren’t disappointing enough, next the community was faced with the school board certifying a levy in 2002 to destroy the Jasper School. This was unconscienable to many, especially to local Jasper Museum Curator and former Jasper Journal Editor Geraldine Pedersen. She assembled a committee, contacted a local attorney, and assembled a complete history of the school, before contacting the Minnesota State Historical Preservation Office in St. Paul. Two staff members from SHPO met with the Jasper committee and toured the school not two days later, recording information and taking photos. Less than a week later, the MSHS office notified the Pipestone School district that the school qualified on several different categories for historic preservation, and strongly urged against demolition.
Despite the school board’s insistent agenda to demolish the school, after the SHPO evaluation, and community members speaking out against the tax levies for demolition, the board finally decided to consider selling the school, and in 2003, the district decided to sell to Dick and Arlene Haase for $1, a businessman and former teacher who intended to turn the building (along with the closed Pipestone Central High School) into assisted living apartments.
Due to health concerns and difficulty in keeping the buildings repaired, he began looking for buyers for both schools in 2004, and soon both buildings fell into disrepair.
In 2007 it was listed as one of the Minnesota 10 Most Endangered historically significant high schools by Preservation Alliance of Minnesota.
After Mr. Haase and his wife both passed away in 2014 and 2015, the family decided to sell the Jasper School to settle their estate. After a time listed with a real estate agency, the decision was made in November 2015 to allow VanDerBrink Auctions to offer the Jasper, MN School along with its contents and land in an Online and Absentee bidding auction only.
The building is in need of major renovation, but the structure itself is in remarkably good condition despite the nearly 10 years abandoned, aside from the caretaking provided by local contractor Terry Skyberg, who took initiative to attempt to protect the building from vandalism and make small necessary repairs or mitigate issues when possible.
At the time the auction launched, a group of concerned alumni and local citizens led by former resident Elicia (Madetzke) Kortus (Pipestone/Jasper class of ‘99) banded together to find a way to purchase the property. The nonprofit group intends to preserve the historical value of the building and renovate the school for a new purpose that will add economic growth and value to the local area. The school still qualifies for listing in the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which makes it eligible for grant funding to aid restoration and improvements. To accomplish this goal, we have formed a nonprofit organization called “Reclaim Community” and secured 501(c)3 tax status through fiscal sponsorship with the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota. PAM is a private, nonprofit organization that aids projects just like this, and will be helping manage funds, assist in planning a reuse study for the building, as well as grant writing to secure additional funding. We have since been awarded our own 501(c)3 status and have continued to benefit from partnership with PAM on grant-writing among other things.
As the building auction was ending we found out another party was bidding, and in the nick of time our organization submitted a purchase agreement, which was accepted, and put a nonrefundable down payment comprised of supporter donations. The balance of $21,000 is due on February 16, 2016.
Our mission is to reclaim the school and revitalize the community using innovative cost saving strategies such as: volunteer labor, donated and reclaimed materials, as well as using renewable energyand maximizing energy efficiency to keep utility costs low. Our longterm plan is to create a vibrant, multifunctional building that includes various types of residential units, one vision is to create living spaces in the industrial style, with exposed beams and piping, brick and stone walls, as well as incubation spaces for local business startups. We also intend to have community-use spaces such as the gymnasium and auditorium for events and receptions, and even an outdoor space for community gardens. By pursuing some of these overarching goals in creative ways, we will be eligible for grant funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the MN State Office of Historical Preservation, the Bush Foundation, and other local development groups. We have some great initial brainstorming ideas, and there are nearly endless possibilities and as we move forward there will be ample opportunity for folks to give input and voice their opinion. To successfully reinsert the old school building back into the community it will need to have a purpose, and that sense of purpose will come from the supporters!
The Jasper, MN School holds many memories to hundreds of students through the years. This school graduated hundreds of people and created memories for many. Join us in preserving this piece of history, as we pursue nomination to the National Register, secure a reuse study, and develop more specific rehabilitation goals and business plans for the future.
To date, we have raised over $75,000 to the rescue and rehabilitation, including a $10,000 grant in September 2017 from the Minnesota State Historical Preservation Office to complete a National Register Nomination. This exhaustive historic documentation is now underway, and we look forward to achieving National Register status in late 2018.
We are currently repairing the electrical system with the over $18,000 raised in 2017, and this spring of 2018 we are moving to making repairs to the gymnasium, including resurfacing the floor, purchasing new (used) theatre curtains, and replacing ceiling tiles damaged by water leaks.
Donate Now and help us continue making progress!