State Teacher College’s Model School Building

The Duluth State Teacher’s College’s Model School Building photographed in 1960 by Ken Moran. [Image: UMD Martin Library]

600 N. 23rd Ave. E. | Architect: Clarence Johnston | Built: 1928 | Extant

The Duluth Normal School operated a “Model School” within the campus’s main building since it first opened in 1902. Here students training to be educators received hands-on instruction and experience teaching Duluth children—many from families of Normal School faculty and the wealthy who lived near campus—at levels from kindergarten through eighth grade. Eighty-five elementary and kindergarten students enrolled in the school’s inaugural year. The Duluth campus requested a separate Model School building as early as 1908, but it didn’t get one until 1926. By then the school had become the Duluth State Teacher’s College.

The last building constructed on the original Normal School campus, the Model School was also the third building on campus designed by renowned Minnesota architect Clarence Johnston. Literally straddling Oregon Creek, the H-shaped building stands two stories high on its eastern side and three stories on the west (over the creek) and is faced in orange brick like the campus’s earlier three buildings. Johnston’s restrained design incorporates Neoclassical elements including an Roman arch entryway flanked by Corinthian pilasters. When first built, the facility contained thirty classrooms, and housed a power and heating plant for the entire campus. A covered, heated walkway lead from the Model School to Old Main.The Model School remained in operation after the Teacher’s College was renamed the University of Minnesota

Duluth in 1947. A UMD News Service press release from 1960 explained that the model school—which by then had been renamed the UMD Laboratory School—capped its enrollment at 228, or twenty-five students per class “in order to provide maximum instruction to the student teacher as well as the children.” More than simply teach students how to be teachers, the school created a place for “participation and observation experiences for students majoring in education who haven’t begun practicing teaching.” Two years later it stopped teaching seventh and eighth grades. The building stopped serving as the laboratory School by 1972, when it became the first home of UMD’s medical school. Seven years later the medical school moved into its own facility on the upper campus, and the 1927 building became headquarters of the Natural Resources Research Institute.Since 1994 the facility, renamed the Research Laboratory Building, has been home to UMD’s Large Lakes Observatory, whose mission “expands and communicates knowledge about the past, present and future of large lakes worldwide.”