Historic Old Central High School

The building is located on one city block bordered by Lake Avenue, Third Street, First Avenue East, and Second Street in downtown Duluth, Minnesota. Because of the historical significance of the building and because it now serves a variety of community entities, the building was officially named Historic Old Central High School on October 19, 2004. 

The building houses the 1890s Classroom Museum, Unity High School, Area Learning Center, ISD 709 administrative offices and print shop, Indian Education, the Office of Education Equity, along with St. Louis County Soil & Water offices.

The school was constructed of Minnesota Brownstone, shipped to Duluth on barges from nearby quarries. The cornerstone was laid in 1891 with an estimated 7000 people attending the ceremony.  It served as a regular high school until the 1970's.  

The Cannon
During the Spanish-American war, the ship Oquendo set sail from Cuba on July 3, 1898. Hours after its departure the Oquendo found itself aflame on a nearby beach with an American fleet claiming victory over its demise.

The Duluth City Council asked for a memento from this event and was granted the aquisition of the ship's cannon. There was only one catch--the city must pay for all transportation costs for the cannon. The city paid the price, and the 17 foot 6 ton cannon was to have led a serene life near the front of Old Central. Life for the cannon was however, at times, exciting.

There was a class of Chemistry students who wanted to try their craft--and some homemade explosives--on the cannon. Needless to say, the windows that were blown out of the school were replaced, but the bill for them has long since been lost.

The cannon was sold as scrap iron in 1942 and was melted down and used during World War II. A flag pole was erected in 1949 on the spot where the cannon stood.

The Clock Tower
The clock is a product of the E. Howard Bell Company of Boston and was installed new in the Central High School Tower in 1893. The face is about 10 feet in diameter.  It ran using a system of weights until it was converted to an electric motor in the 1940's.    

According to the manufacturer, the clock, with proper maintenance, would last 200-300 years. Changes have been made in the last 100 years--changes which included the electrification of the clock in the 1940's and the lighting of the tower in the 1990's. These changes coupled with the passage of time have resulted in the need for repair, restoration and ongoing maintenance of the clock and tower.

One goal of the Central Preservation Committee is that of establishing a permanent, dividend-bearing, Old Central Preservation fund, part of which would be dedicated to just such procedures. 

The Chimes
The chimes were installed in 1895 and programmed to sound like the chimes in Westminster in Great Britain. The bells weigh from 700 to 2300 pounds.  

A student named John F. Zorbas wrote lyrics for the chimes while attending Duluth Central High in 1948: Almighty God, Almighty Power, Cherish Our School,Throughout the Hour.  He won a school sponsored contest in which entrants submitted lyrics to match the famous Westminster Chimes melody. 

One of the planners of the 20-year reunion for the Class of '84 found out a surprising fact about the 1948 winning entry. Mr. Zorbas was not credited for writing the lyrics to Chimes. His name did not appear after Chimes in yearbooks, graduation programs etc.* However, something has finally been done to correct this five-decades-long oversight. 

Mark Engblom, the reunion planner, and Gina Zorbas, the contest winner's daughter, both Class of '84, have had a special certificate presented to John Zorbas, lyricist, Class of '48. The certificate was signed by the Duluth Superintendent of Schools, the chairperson of the Duluth School Board, and the 2004 principal of Central High. Mr. Zorbas was honored at the Saturday evening reunion event at the DECC on July 24, 2004.

*Credit was given, however, in a brochure, circa 2001, created by the Central Preservation Committee.

Dear Old Central - Historic Publication:  
Click on the pdf file below to read a document written by students during the tenure of Principal George Beck.
Web Developer,
Jun 21, 2013, 1:09 PM