Abandoned School in Williams, Minnesota

Abandoned School in Williams, Minnesota

Williams is in Lake of the Woods county in northern Minnesota.  According to the 2010 Census, Williams has 191 residents.

On October 7th, 1910, Williams was decimated by the Baudette Fire–a wildfire that scorched over 300,000 acres and nearly a dozen communities in both the United States and Canada.  Varied sources report the death toll between 29 and 42.  Thousands were left homeless and The American Red Cross and The National Guard assisted in the recovery effort.

Today, Williams is a quiet little community with plentiful resort traffic.  Emma Katka contributed these photos of the Williams abandoned school, which was also used as the Williams Community Center for a time.

Photos by Emma Katka
Original content copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

42 thoughts on “Abandoned School in Williams, Minnesota

  1. my father actually currently lives in Williams and that is where I grew up. I went to high school in Baudette MN. it is a very peaceful town full of wonderful people.

  2. I live in Warroad and have attended many activities in this building. I can’t believe how bad it has gotten in the last 10 years, so very sad. When I was in there it was no where near this. I always heard it was haunted but never heard or witnessed anything of the sort.

  3. I grew up 6 miles from here. I attended many events in this building. My step-dad went to school here. I am very sad that it has been left in this disorder, left to rot. It should have been on the Historical Registry and preserved. Spending the night in there would NOT be fun. I’ve been alone in several of the rooms and did NOT like it.

  4. I am 27 years old, and I have plenty of memories of this school! Our church St. Joseph’s was right next door, and after Sunday school we’d zip over to the play ground. Up until a few years ago, there was all sorts of community events here with a little general store. We used the gymnasium/auditorium for 4-H Share the Fun skits and I was in the Potato Day’s celebration one year. It is sad to see the gym in such disrepair, as I believe they put a new floor in (or just fixed it) roughly 15 years ago. It seemed like one year it was useable and the next it had rotted over night. I wonder what became of the stuffed wolf that was in the trophy case….

    Now when I drive through Williams on HW 11 I always look to see if the school is still standing. One day it’ll be gone but the memories of our times there will not.

    Also, I don’t believe for one second that the school is haunted. I would bet it is over active imaginations added to the creaks and groans of an old building.

  5. I also went to school here. I have moved from the area and it is so sad to see how terrible it has gotten. Not too many potato days, I was back and we were still able to use the gym for the events. I heard not long after that it would be used again. This is were my elementary memories are… Graduated from Baudette but still loved Williams the best… Great little town…..

  6. As class president, I gave the Commencement Speech at our graduation in 1947 from the stage shown in one of the photos. I wonder if the desk I carved my name on is still in one of the classrooms. I purchased one of the plate glass windows on the 3rd floor in the Spring of ’47, courtesy of an edict from R. O. Boelke, the Superintendant. I just happened to be by the window when it broke (all by itself). On my last flight in the KC-135, I made a low pass over Williams 1,000 feet above the ground at 500 mph coming in from the SW, made a 270 degree left turn and headed out SE for Duluth. It is sad to see how much the farms and the town have gone to the elements since 1947.

  7. I graduated from Baudette High School in 1967, but attended various speech and drama activities at the Williams School. The picture of the stage holds special memories for me. Many years later, I would attend a wedding dance in the auditorium when my nephew and his wife were married. I also visited the school for some of the Williams Potato Day events. I am sad to see what once was a vibrant building, brimming with life and activity, now vacant. It still, however, holds memories… it will never be without memories.

    1. The pictures communicate lost memories and abandoned dreams – like balloons that floated away being lost form their tether. While never attended the Williams School, I am familiar with the regions and graduated from Baudette High School in 1967.

      1. Hi Grace: I used google maps satellite view and found the high school located on Park Ave near the intersections of Park Ave and Minnesota Street, just across Park Ave from St Joseph Catholic Church. The small size of the town makes it easy to find the schools position.

        If you don’t mind me asking, what is your history with the school? I did not visit the school, but I have been in the St Joseph Catholic Church across the street. I graduated form Baudette High School.

  8. Lots of fun potato day memories at the Williams school and think there were a lot of volunteers for many years that helped keep the building and grounds in decent condition. I don’t know what the current circumstances are and do not recall hearing any rumors that it was haunted.

  9. Jess,,,FYI 2 years ago with the help of our County Sheriff we “rescued” the trophy case with the wolf and all the trophies.Also the Class pictures thatuse to line the walls of the south elementary building. We repaired the case, polished the trophies, restored and cleaned the pictures. They are now safely hanging uptown in the Senior Center. The wolf is actually in the Williams City Office. They can now be seen and enjoyed by Everyone. Most of us had 12 years of memories in the school, so it was a labor of love.

    1. Peggy, on behalf of my father Garry Langton I would like to thank you and all involved for saving the memories of those that attended in Williams.

      1. yes buck uncle gary and francise and Ronnie and my mom Shirley sutherlad all went 2 school here what great memories darn shame this building couldn’t be saved

    2. yes I also have very good memories of going 2 school there till 1969 my whole family has graduated from ther

  10. i have lots of memories with the potato day festivities that livened that place up…so sad that it’s left to rot, wish that someone would’ve been able to rescue it years ago. we moved into our house last year and discovered that the previous owners had my aunt and uncles lockers and there friends from the williams school. we thought it was so cool that they ended up with us! they had wrote there names on the inside of the lockers that so and so loves whoever but out of the 3 couples only my aunt and uncle stayed together and they’ll be married 40 years next summer 🙂

  11. You are no longer able to go into the building because of all the black mold, that’s also why they can’t just tear it down.

  12. I went to school there and it holds so many memories for me. Never being able to wear street shoes on the gym floor. Christmas pageants there. Playing girls basketball on only half the court…girls couldn’t run that far. High School going up to the principles office from the bottom floor knowing it was because your skirt was to short but it was somehow below the knee when you got there!!! Later we had several family reunions there. And all those dances!!! Good memories and wish it could stand forever. Always wanted to go back in and wonder around.

  13. Great pictures of the school and a time gone by for so many of the small communities we grew up in. Williams, Baudette, Badger, Greenbush and Middle River. The time before all the school mergers of the smaller communities. I grew up in Baudette and graduated from Baudette High School in 1970. It was always fun playing sports with these individual communities and the school teams that represented them. I remember playing basketball in the gym pictured and a couple of the Williams players, Jim Harthune and a Vandehy. Sometimes after playing teams from these towns we would stop at a cafe on the small main street for something to eat before the bus ride home. Wonder if there are still cafes’ on those main streets. Great growing up in a small town.

  14. For a while there was a paint-your-own ceramics shop in one of the rooms, and the library was still open (I think), and maybe one other business…but I recall talking to one of the people (20 yrs ago or more) who worked in one of those places, and she said one day she went out in the hallway to go to the restroom, and there was a 6 or 7 yr old girl in olde-tyme clothing standing in the hallway. She tried to talk to her and ask if she was lost or can’t find her mom, but the girl just ignored her and didn’t say a word….I don’t recall if she said the girl turned around and walked away or if she just disappeared. But that’s the only “ghost story” I’ve really heard about the place, despite hanging out there for lots of events through the years.

  15. My family worked many potato days in that building. Planning and cooking the meals for that fun day. Enjoyed visiting with all the wonderful people that attended, we would be there from early in the morning cooking and preparing for the day. Then we would clean up and get prepare for the dances that night. I really enjoyed watching the many well thought out programs. My in laws had a little store in there for a few years also. We stayed in that buildings several nights, due to all the break ins in there and never saw or heard any ghost. We did a lot of work in there at night to keep it going, but some people didn’t thank it needed to be used anymore. Lots of great memories!!

  16. It is always sad to see a building so full of memories for that Lake of the Woods community become derelict.I went to Fort Frances High School across from I Falls. Our boys’ senior basketball team played the Williams team in the autumn of 1957 and ’58.

  17. I too went to school here from Kindergarden thru Jr High then graduated in Baudette. Have so many memories and stories and have heard even more with my parents both attending school there. I grew up a few miles outside of
    Williams went out into the world but returned to that wonderful small community. Went to many a Potato Day activities in this school. There have been so many people trying to keep the school alive but time has been hard on it, but the memories live on.

  18. I live in Roosevelt, about 10 miles away, and the same size of town (151) I would love to have the resources to restore the place. since we live in such a small size town, our kids are the ones in need of a place to be. someplace safe, where they can ‘hangout’ and be kids. where they can get exercise year round, do home work, listen to music, play dodge ball and have a soda. There is an abandoned school in Warroad also that I would love to do this with. Just because we are in a remote local does not mean our children don’t deserve the opportunities that the cities can offer them.

  19. I taught elementary at this school. I loved it! It was a wonderful place to start teaching. I, too, wish that I had the money to restore it. I felt the same way about the Border School.

  20. I was a girl scout leader, and we held our meetings in the school and court of awards in the gym. My father in law was the school janitor for many years. My kids attended some of their school years there also. Great school in its day, to bad it had to die.

    1. Thanks for sharing your memories; I did not attend the school – I attended the Baudette High School. However, I have seen your school many times and understand how important it was to the whole community. It is good to hear about scouting and how the school provided a meeting place. I was a boy scout leader for 14 years.

  21. Hi, this is Wayne A. Johnson, Ph.D., recently retired as a faculty member and department chairman at The Ohio State University (31 years, 1983-2014), and prior to that twelve years at South Dakota State Univ. I spent my entire elementary and high school years at Williams Schools, and it was wonderful! We had great teachers, an environment where almost everyone shared a desire for learning, and a remarkable academic achievement which convinced me that “students make the school”, and not vice-versa! My memories of days at the school are almost all positive, including the opportunity to play sports (basketball, football, track, and baseball), and to watch our hockey teams achieve state-wide notoriety! I agree that it would have been great to see the school preserved as a historical site…perhaps as a museum honoring the excellence of educational pursuits in the rural and small-town environments of Northern Minnesota. Too bad it is perhaps too late for that…as the Williams School had an important historical beginning just over 100 years ago…at which time it was the largest multi-story wood-framed school building in the United States! Hello to all of my former classmates and friends! Wayne A. Johnson

    1. Well stated, Wayne. I also enjoyed all my years at Williams School, graduating in 1967. It is so sad to see it now. I wish it could have been preserved in some way. Too expensive to repair. To expensive to maintain. Too expensive to tear it down with the asbestos issues. I wonder what will ever become of it. It makes me sad every time I drive by.

  22. I graduated from Roseau HS in 1967 and played basketball at WHS. Fun to see the old gym. Some questions: What year did Williams HS close? Does that year correspond with the last graduating class or was the consolidation with Baudette already happening? What year (season) was the last hockey team playing at WHS?
    Thanks for sharing all the memories.

    1. The events you ask about occurred after 1967; however, I do not know the actual dates. I expect others following these events will have the data. I moved from the area in 1968.

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