Two Abandoned Schools in Beardsley, Minnesota

Two Abandoned Schools in Beardsley, Minnesota

Beardsley is in Big Stone County, in the “elbow” of Minnesota, where Lake Traverse, Big Stone Lake, and the Little Minnesota River carve into what would otherwise be South Dakota’s territory.

Beardsley, Minnesota

Beardsley had a population of 200-plus residents in the 2010 Census. Beardsley’s schools were consolidated with Graceville and Clinton, Minnesota long ago. In the photo above, the former High School is in the foreground, and behind it on the left, Beardsley’s other abandoned school, which now appears to be owned by a private party.

Beardsley, Minnesota

Beardsley, Minnesota

The corner of Windom Avenue and Forest Street.

Beardsley, Minnesota

Beardsley, Minnesota

Beardsley, Minnesota

If there’s any question how long this school has been left exposed to the elements, note the broken door in the lower left. We found a picture of this school online, taken in 2009, in which the door was in the same condition. Below, a look inside the doorway.

Beardsley, Minnesota

We did not see a single “No Trespassing” sign on this old school, but we did not have permission to enter, and we didn’t know who the owner was, so we stayed out. We would love to photograph the interior one day, before it’s too late.

Beardsley, Minnesota

Beardsley, Minnesota

This school was built in 1908. For historical context, that same year, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were reportedly killed in Bolivia, Henry Ford produced the first Model-T, and Thomas Selfridge became the first person to die in a plane crash. He was a passenger on a flight piloted by Orville Wright.

Beardsley, Minnesota

Beardsley’s other school was built in 1954, and only a year later, Beardsley’s public schools became the subject of some controversy with the Catholic Church. In his book, “Rooting Out Religion: Church-State Controversies in Minnesota Public Schools Since 1950,” author Bruce Dierenfield details a 1955 controversy in which the Pastor of St. Mary’s Church, Harvey Egan, wrote a letter objecting to baccalaureate services held in connection with graduation and holiday ceremonies on the grounds that the prayers may violate Catholic beliefs. “Upon receiving the letter, the school board canceled commencement and considered dropping its Christmas celebration. The board chairman, C. A. Hundeby, called for ‘a strictly academic year all year with no Christmas programs either.'”

Beardsley, Minnesota

Beardsley, Minnesota

The roof on this school was somewhat unique, and something we hadn’t seen before. It was sloped toward the center.

Beardsley, Minnesota

Do you know more about Beardsley, Minnesota and its schools? Please leave a comment.

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media



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39 thoughts on “Two Abandoned Schools in Beardsley, Minnesota

  1. Thanks for the great pictures and short commentary. I love seeing the small towns of the upper mid-west, but it hurts to see them coming down. I like how you respect the properties you view and do not trespass. Your picture quality is outstanding and has that haunting feeling, perhaps it is also the content that haunts.

    1. So neat to read all the comments of the schools in my hometown prior to when I attended them……My Dad and Aunts and uncle attended when the old high school was open….but if I recall right they had closed the old high school due to the floors starting to sag and let go just before 1990. Then they had added onto the newer school which then combined with the Browns Valley schools and became the Elementary school. The school housed grades K-6. I started with Preschool in a building on main street in Browns Valley, then started Kindergarten in the newer school 1992. By the time I got to 6th grade the Beardsley-Browns Valley school systems had split up. In 1998 Browns Valley had joined with the Sisseton, SD school systems. And Beardsley had joined with the Clinton-Graceville, MN school systems. They had still held elementary school in both Beardsley and Clinton. In 2000 they had decided to switch the Schools around so that Elementary was held in Clinton, Middle school (grades 6-8) were held in Beardsley, and the High school was in Graceville. I graduated from the C-G-B High School in 2004. I am not sure if it was in 2005 or 2006 when the school system could no longer financially support 3 school buildings so they kept the Elementary open in Clinton, MN and floated grades 6-8 back over to the high school building in Graceville, MN and Closed the school in Beardsley, MN

  2. I attended both school in the 1970’s and 80’s. The school that was built in 1908 had the lunch room in the basement along with all of the bathrooms. There are 4 classrooms on the first floor, and 2 classrooms on the second floor along with an auditorium and library combo. There were beautiful hard wood floors that always shined. The boards were very narrow…about 1 1/2 inches wide. This school had a coal fired steam furnace that was used to heat the place.

    As for the newer school, this was state of the art in the early years. It had a beautiful gym and stage. The gym floor was tile, and had great lighting. My mother, Ione Gibson was the Home Economics teacher in this school from the Fall of 1960 to the end of the school year in 1984. Mr Harvey Kunkel was principal for most of the years that the school was open. Our class size ranged from 10 to 26 students when I attended this school. In the Fall of 1984 the Beardsley schools “Paired” with the school district in Browns Valley. This year was my senior year…

    The photos are beautiful, but bring a tear to my eye…I have always said that the start of the fall of Beardsley was the day the schools no longer had students. When the schools were shuttered there were two grocery stores, a blacksmith shop, and a gas station that have since closed.

    My family still farms in the area and I hope that one day I will move back to the area.

    Regards,
    Dawn Gibson Carlson
    Kirkland, IL

    1. Dawn Carlson
      I know who owns both of the school you can message me and I will give you his name and he has a care taker for the schools that lives right in town and I don’t think they would care if you took pictures but let me know and I can find out

    1. Any thing that Keith Anderson owns is NOT taken care of and is allowed to be run down and open for anyone to get hurt . Such a shame the city counsel did nothing for years. So glad not living there to see the pitifull mess that needs to be tore down. Lived there 28 years next to both schools . Shame on you!!!

      1. I couldn’t agree with you more Joan! I think the people of Beardsley can understand that the most! We’ve seen what happens. As someone commented on my comment saying it’s because of economic hard times….I’m sure that does have some to do with it. However, if you know you don’t have the finances then don’t leave your properties in a position that is going to ruin them further. Such as knocking out all the windows and not even bothering to board them up.

  3. The old school, built in 1908, also had a library in the top floor and a silo/fire escape for that top floor. This building held the elementary classes which were combined. Kindergarten was on its own but 1st & 2nd grade classes were together, 3rd & 4th were together, and 5th & 6th were together. The brand new school didn’t have a cafeteria so the high school students had to come to the basement of the old school for lunch.

    Last time I was in the old building over 20 years ago, there were no classes being held there and they hadn’t been in around 10 years, the main floor was storing almost brand new gymnastics equipment. Bars, pommel horses, trampolines, and matts. The floors were weak and sagging then so you may not even be able to safely tour the building which is sad as it was a beautiful place.

  4. It’s Keith Anderson that owns both schools. He has a tendency of buying up properties, acting like he’s going to repair them, and then leaves them to the point where they just fall apart. It’s very sad to see it this way. The newer schools was open not all that long ago and he has let it go that much. At one point he planted a corn field by the school. I had mice like I have never seen before. It’s very sad.

    1. It really is too bad to see these beautiful, historic buildings in rural America become unused. However, that is a sign of the economic times. I’m sure you have been following the posts on this site to see that this is common in small towns across rural Minnesota. What would you expect to see happen to old schools in dying communities? The school district closed due to low numbers and the board decided they wanted their hands free of it. What do you think should happen as communities continue to decrease in size and young families continue to move away due to no local jobs? This isn’t any different than area churches, grocery stores, drug stores, clothing stores and houses sitting empty in Big Stone County. The only thing different is the size of these schools, which I imagine, makes it much more difficult to repurpose them. Do you know of any major businesses that would move to the area and take on a building of that size? I wish I did, but I don’t. However, if you do, the Big Stone Area Growth (BSAG) group is always looking for volunteers to help increase economic development in the area. Personally, I would rather help fix the root cause than blame the effect.

  5. I attended the Beardsley high school starting when I was in eighth grade and graduated there in 1980 there is no lunch room in the new high school so pouring rain snow storms whatever we had to walk across the street and eat in the basement of the old high school that’s the only cafeteria they had ,my grandparents live right across the street from there my dad went to high school there it is so sad to see everything deteriorate but I have great memories playing basketball there watching my brother play football we had no lights so our home games were all around 1 o’clock in the afternoon we all love that we got out of school . When I was a sophomore in high school I had a secretary job and I got to the County, which I helped the teachers in the elementary school which that’s the old high school make bulletin boards correct papers do Jobs for them I would turn the projector on way up on the third floor in the old library and copy pictures for the bulletin boards. I have to admit it was pretty spooky being in that old big building all by myself I would go in there on Saturdays and work like 8 to 4 and get all my hours in one day because I couldn’t do it after school because of sports I would go to Joyce Doshadis house was the janitor at that time to get the keys most of my family still lives there but me too bad they couldn’t find some use for it thanks for the memories

  6. My grandma Lois Gibson was one of the cooks in the old school. I remember when I was very little I would visit her at the school in the lunch room that was in the basement . My mother went to school in the newer building as well as mu aunt Bonnie . very sad to see these old building go to waste . I wished I had the funding to fix it up .

  7. My brother Scott Hendricks went to school in the newer building. Loved watching him play football the Mustangs . lots of memories watching my brother play on that old field

  8. So neat to read all the comments of the schools in my hometown prior to when I attended them……My Dad and Aunts attended when the old high school was open my uncle only attented the newer school….but if I recall right they had closed the old high school due to the floors starting to sag and let go just before 1990. Then they had added onto the newer school. They then combined with the Browns Valley schools and became the Elementary school. The school housed grades K-6. I started Kindergarten in the newer school in 1992. By the time I got to 4th grade the Beardsley-Browns Valley school systems had split up. In 1997 Browns Valley had joined with the Sisseton, SD school systems. And Beardsley had joined with the Clinton-Graceville, MN school systems. They had still held elementary school in both Beardsley and Clinton. In 2000 they had decided to switch the Schools around so that in 2000- 2001 school year Elementary was held in Clinton, Middle school (grades 6-8) were held in Beardsley, and the High school was in Graceville. I graduated from the C-G-B High School in 2004. I am not sure if it was in 2005 or 2006 when the school system could no longer financially support 3 school buildings so they kept the Elementary open in Clinton, MN and floated grade 6-8 back over to the high school building in Graceville, MN and Closed the school in Beardsley, MN

  9. My mom went to high school here. She attended a one room school house prior to this. It is a beautiful building and within these walls are many precious memories that we all experience growing up as a teenager. I hope it remains for many years to come. Up until her death, my mom remained close friends with the small class that she graduated with from Beardsley.

  10. My mom graduated from the “old” school in 1943. When I started first grade in 1954, all 12 grades were still in this building. To a first grader, it seemed very crowded when all the kids were “let out” of school at the end of the day. In the fall of 1955, when I entered 2nd grade, the grades 7-12 were transferred over to the “new” school. When I graduated in 1966, the population sign on the edge of town still said 466 and the 2 schools were still labeled as the old school and the new school.
    The first floor was beautiful. There was a rotunda in the center of and situated around the rotunda were four classrooms, which belonged to the first 4 grades when I went to school there. There were also descending stairways on the west side and east side of the building which got us to the where the restrooms were and the Cafeteria was. In addition there was a small stairway that led to the “elementary library”. This was a charming little room that was just elevated 4 or 5 steps up from the main floor. There was also a wide stairway that led up to the principal’s office (Miss Whalen) and a little room we could go if we didn’t feel well. I don’t remember is there was ever a school nurse. From this area there was another short flight of stairs that had the fifth grade room and sixth grade room. I don’t remember what rooms housed grades 7-12, but there was an auditorium type room on the same floor as the fifth grade room and sixth grade room. I think there was a library up there too. I am not remembering much about that part of the school.
    I do remember the fire escape and “fire” drills. I also remember that the cafeteria was used by both schools because no cafeteria existed in the new school at the time I attended. When we had our 45th class reunion in 2011, we did have the opportunity to take a tour through both schools and I believe I did take a few pictures. It saddened me to see the deterioration of the both schools. I wish the city could have afforded to preserve them, but certainly do understand why it was next to impossible with the dwindling rural economy.
    I remember after I left Beardsley and when the old school eventually closed I hoped I would have the finances someday to restore the building and make good use of it. I think there were many of us who thought the same thing at one time or another, but evidently no one became rich enough to restore or save the schools from their cruel fate.

  11. The top floor was the library. The principal’s office in the mid level.

    When the elementary school closed, we were allowed to take the books home. I spent hours up there. We also screened films, my first… And only time of Old Yeller.

    Teachers, aromas, “lunch ladies,” snacks, Joyce, naps, the dark basement, the long hike to the library, “tether ball,” Mrs. Robbins, Miss piechowski, Mrs. Peterson, Mrs. Schmitz…

  12. Wow–just had to comment–thanks to all the memories written above. I too loved these schools. I graduated in 1972. My father, Mr. Kunkel was the principal there for MANY years. In the old high school there is a ”wall” of graduating classes-going back a long time. Wonder what became of, what will become of these old photos?? Debbie (Kunkel) Schumacher

  13. I taught art at this school in 1976-81. Very fond memories of Beardsley and the wonderful friendships made there. I recall making some repairs to the 1908 building back then. The arched window above the front door had a broken pane that was purple stained glass…impossible to find the same glass. I cut a new piece and went to work trying duplicate the effect. Came pretty close. Also found full sized busts of Lincoln and Washington up in the attic that needed repair. Fixed ’em up and they sat on top of the Coke machine at the high school. I hope they still survive. I saw similar busts on American Pickers recently that sold for $1,000.

  14. I attended Beardsley schools 1st grade through graduation. The first 6 grades were in the 3 story building and jr high and 9 thru 12 in the newer school. It was a beautiful school, nicest gym in the district for sports. I was surprised at the comment about not holding Christian events tho. We had Christmas concerts, Memorial Day services and graduation services, all included prayers in our school. We had a great teaching staff, Joyce and Ray team cooked and kept the school beautiful. Teachers taught! Sportsmanship prevailed! Very sad to see the schools falling apart like this. I wish they would have sold it off by the brick. Good old days. Here’s to the class of 1971…. Go Mustangs! JZP

  15. Abandoned buildings are sad…and they are all over, not just in Beardsley. Many are in a similar state of disrepair. As Beardsley residents may or may not know, it costs a lot of money to maintain old buildings. The new owner has tried unsuccessfully since purchase, and at significant personal cost, to attract businesses to use the two schools. but to no avail. Beardsley is simply too small, off-the-beaten track for transportation purposes, and sometimes residents are not welcoming to new businesses coming in. My question for the Beardsley residents who voiced negative comments: What have YOU done to improve the economic basis of your community? Maybe the City of Beardsley could repurchase the properties and make them into something truly beautiful and valuable.

    1. This is not about the economic situation of the City of Beardsley. It’s about a property that has been allowed to deteriorate. The basement door has been standing open for seven years minimum, maybe more. Windows that could have been boarded up have been left wide open. Sheets of plywood are about $20 a pop. No Trespassing or Keep Out signs cost about $1.50 each, but nobody has bothered to buy and post them. That tells you all you need to know about the level of care the property owner has exercised. If a person doesn’t have enough money to maintain a property, maybe they shouldn’t buy it in the first place.

      1. You are right, of course, that the property should be kept up better, and your comments of “how” are appropriate. That said, the present owner would not have purchased the properties unless he thought they had utility for an incoming business. Why else would anyone purchase old buildings such as schools? I too have purchased things that didn’t turn out well — and kept dumping good money after bad into them because there was no market for resale. Perhaps these old buildings should just be demolished — but there’s a cost to that as well (think “asbestos” for one).

        1. Your argument doesn’t seem to be logical.

          You said, “The present owner would not have purchased the properties unless he thought they had utility for an incoming business. Why else would anyone purchase old buildings such as schools?”

          If the present owner bought them because he thought they had utility for an incoming business, what is the logic behind letting them wither in the elements? Doesn’t that make them less attractive to a potential buyer? Wouldn’t it make more sense to keep them up? The owner is devaluing his own property by leaving it neglected.

          The truth is, people buy properties like this all the time, and they do it because it’s cheap. City and County Governments don’t have the resources or the will to maintain unused structures like this, so they sell them for a song, often for a few thousand dollars, sometimes for as little as a dollar. But too often, the buyers are people who just want to own something, people who have big dreams of striking it rich when a buyer magically shows up, or a new industry comes to town, and they haven’t the money to do anything with their new property when those dreams don’t come true.

          Should they be knocked down? Only the property owner can decide that. But while they stand, they should at the very least be secured against the elements, and posted No Trespassing. Otherwise, the owner has no right to bitch when the property deteriorates or some trespassers go exploring.

          1. I didn’t mean to sound “illogical.” My point is, how does one improve upon a decision to purchase a property that appears to have no resale value and little chance of repurposing, after the fact? How long do you keep pumping more money into property that’s “going nowhere?” People are good at criticizing, but less good at helping to find viable solutions.

  16. My name is Doris Judish Sale. My mother went to school in the 1908 building, graduating from that school. This school was later used for elementary school, where my sisters and myself attended. The other school built across the street was the high school, with grades 7th thru 12. My family graduated from this school before consolidation, which didn’t occur until the 1980’s.

  17. I am the owner of the Beardsley schools. Thank you to the photographers for the pictures and the dialogue that the post has generated. Thank you also to the bloggers who have kept an open mind on the subject of the schools. I wish the photographers would have taken the effort to contact me and then taken some pictures of the beautiful interior of the 1908 school. I am not internet savy enough to fully advertise the school so appreciate any help others can lend.
    .It is interesting to note that none of the bloggers made mention of the new roof that I put on the 1908 school, the nicely painted trim and the fact that I power washed the outside brick to help bring back some of its original beauty. No one mentioned the nicely maintained grass and new trees planted on the premises. I need to thank John and Jean Smith for all the love and hard work they have expended to help keep the premises and building looking nice. Ironically they are not from the area and have no connection to the school but love life in small town America and think the school should be preserved.
    When I bought the buildings, after the city declined to buy them for $1, the 1908 school was boarded up tight. Unfortunately the roof leaked badly on the outside 3 feet where the slope changes. Because the building could not breath and dry out after a rain event there was getting to be damage especially to the west side of the school and flooring. Some of the plywood boarding up the windows was removed to get air ventilation and also to allow light in so the building could be worked on and shown. Most of the plaster was gutted from the upstairs 3rd floor because it was water damaged and the contractor felt removing that weight from the structure was beneficial to the long term good of the building. Plastic was put on to cover up the open windows and yes alot of that covering has come apart. If anyone wants to volunteer to put up new plastic on the open windows more power to you. There are 81 windows in the building.
    The paper work to register the 1908 building as a Federal Historic landmark was started by the late Burt Nypen who had the foresight to try to preserve some of Big Stone county history. If registered the restoration costs will qualify for federal tax credits (if the building is restored in approved way). Laura Carrington from Morris, Mn has also done alot of work in promoting saving of this school when she got it nominated as one of 10 most important buildings in Minnesota to preserve.
    The structure of the 1908 building is very sound. When the roofing was done we shot a level of the roofline and it was perfectly level, very impressive for a 108 year old building. I was not aware of “sagging floors” in the building but removing some of the ceiling plaster and lathe should be of a benefit.
    What is the future of this building? My hope is someone with more foresight than the naysayers in the blog will see the potential in Beardsley’s jewel. The building is for sale for the expense of the new roof (about $40,000). For this price you get a full city block of land and a 15,000 square feet of building history. With high speed internet coming to town this summer this should be an excellent opportunity for someone with vision. The availability of the small city grant will be known this coming summer.
    I have been buying a large quantity of new windows on auction, (mostly Andersen and Pella). These windows could be put in the 1908 school but they will change the historical look of the structure. I am hoping a new owner will make that decision. Yes I do have an interested party in the school but there are alot of logistics to work out. Let the school go to ruin? – I hope my legacy is that I saved it for the next 108 years. If you have comments call me at 320-760-0824 or kranderson@hughes.net
    .

  18. My dad graduated from the old school in Beardsley in 1955, and I have the letter that was sent out by the priest about the graduation ceremony. I’ve been inside the old building, and it is (was) really neat. It’s really too bad that it’s fallen into disrepair.

  19. Lia, I would appreciate a copy of that letter as it is a part of Beardsley’s history. I have had a hard time finding old pictures and other information about the 1908 school. Would be nice if a compilation of it’s history could be made. keith

    1. I no longer live in the area, but when I’m out next I’ll see if I can track it down. I also have many old yearbooks and at least some old photos.

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