January 17, 1893: State legislature considers a state normal school for Duluth

On this day in 1893, Representative J. A. Boggs introduced a bill to create a state normal school in Duluth. Normal schools trained high school graduates to become teachers; the term “normal” comes from the ideal that the education focused on “the norms of pedagogy and curriculum.” Most normals schools were later renamed “teachers colleges.” Boggs, who represented Lake, Cooke, and St. Louis Counties, wanted to set aside four acres in Duluth and construct a building costing up to $100,000. At the time, the normal school at St. Cloud was the closest to Duluth. School superintendent Robert Denfeld suggested those four acres should be located “on the Woodland motor line” which he considered “the healthiest and most appropriate as well as the most desirable locality for such an institute.” Besides the building, which would carry a $2.7 million price tag today, Denfeld said the school needed a president, a training teacher, and ten instructors. Boggs failed to get the bill through, but five years later ground was broke along the 2200 block of East Fifth Street (indeed very close to the Woodland streeetcar line) on an $80,000 building for the Duluth Normal School. The school was renamed Duluth Teachers College in 1921 and, in 1947, to the University of Minnesota Duluth. When the main campus moved in the 1950s, the original building was dubbed “Old Main.” Efforts for a normal school on the other side of the bay—also in 1893—were more successful, and that summer Wisconsin announced that a Normal School would be coming to Superior. Superior Normal School went up at Grand Avenue between 16th & 18th Avenues in 1895. The school’s name had changed from State Normal School to State Teacher’s College by 1927. The main building, also called “Old Main,” survives as part of the University of Wisconsin Superior. You can read more about Superior State Normal School here and the Duluth Normal School here.

This postcard of the campus of the Duluth Normal School was created between 1909 and 1915. (Image: Zenith City Press)

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