Lester Park Elementary (1918)

The second Lester Park Elementary School photographed in 1918 by Hugh McKenzie. [Image: UMD Martin Library]

315 North 54th Avenue East | Architect: de Waard & Staudahar | Built: 1918 | Lost: 2011

Lakeside and Lester Park, Duluth’s easternmost neighborhoods, were developed in the 1880s by the Lakeside Land Company, which expanded the 1871 Town of New London eastward and renamed its western portion Lakeside and the newer, eastern portion Lester Park. Together they formed the Village of Lakeside, incorporated in 1891 as a city. Duluth annexed Lakeside in 1893, at which time its schools became part of the Duluth School District. A year before the annexation, the community built an elementary school along the 5400 block of Otsega Street. The four-room, two-story wood-frame Lester Park Elementary, designed by Frederick German and John De Waard, stood on a foundation of local stone and featured a three-story, four-sided tower with a pyramidal cap. By 1895 the building was considered inadequate, and a four-room addition, also designed by German & De Waard, was made to the building. The school served grades one through six until 1918. Junior high students living in Lester Park attended Lakeside Elementary School, which served grades one through eight.

The year before the 1892 school closed, De Waard teamed up with Francis X. Staudahar to design a school that would replace the one he and German had drawn up twenty-five years earlier. Built of multicolored bricks trimmed in stone, the rectangular 1918 Lester Park Elementary was essentially a simple commercial building with limited Neo-Gothic/English Revival ornamentation. It stood three stories tall and sported castellations and parapets along its tall cornice; the middle parapet along the school’s front façade carried the school’s name carved in stone. A pair of tall pilasters capped with carved braces framed its stone entrance portico.

After the new Lester Park Elementary opened, the school district sold the 1892 school to the City of Duluth for one dollar. The city demolished the wooden school in 1925 to make room for the Lester Park branch library, which served both neighborhoods.
In 1954 the school board added a wing to the school’s north side, but it included none of the architectural details that appeared on the original building. In 2010 a new Lester Park Elementary School was constructed as part of the Duluth School District’s Long Range Facilities Plan. The new school serves students of both Lester Park and Lakeside (Lakeside Elementary School closed in 1993). Meanwhile, the 1918 Lester Park Elementary was demolished in 2011 to make room for the new school’s recreational field.