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Bismarck History: Education

Built in 1912 to serve as the high school, this building later served as the junior high from 1935-1961, when it was demolished.

Built in 1912 to serve as the high school, this building later served as the junior high from 1935-1961, when it was demolished.

Linda Slaughter established Bismarck’s first school in  September 1873 inside the Congressional Church, which was located on the southwest corner of Thayer Avenue and Sixth Street. The township took over the school the following year, establishing Bismarck’s first public school.

The school remained housed inside the Congressional Church until 1877, when it temporarily relocated to the Dunn’s residence at 208 Third Street. The city’s first schoolhouse, a 2-room brick building, was erected the following year at the intersection of Rosser Avenue and Fifth Street.

In 1882, the school board purchased the block that now houses Will-Moore Elementary from McKenzie and Coffin. The North Ward School was completed on the site in 1884, at which time the original schoolhouse was used for various county offices until it was torn down in 1904 to be replaced by Will School the following year.

The North Ward and Will Schools housed all grade levels until the construction of the city’s first designated high school in 1912. The North Ward School was renamed the William Moore School in 1918, the same year Wachter School was built. Richholt School was constructed in 1920, followed in 1923 with Roosevelt School. To meet the demands of the growing city, the Will School added three additional rooms in 1927, and then in 1930, Wachter School also added three rooms and a gymnasium.

By this time, the city desperately needed to replace its high school, which had been built in 1912, and was no longer adequate to handle the city’s needs. Construction began on the new high school in 1934, and was ready for occupancy on September 10 the following year. The facility was intended to house the city’s needs for years to come. In fact, the new high school was so large that it even housed Bismarck Junior College from its inception in 1939 until 1955. The original high school building would continue to serve as the junior high school until 1961. Century High School opened in 1976 to help alleviate overcrowding at Bismarck High.

Hillside Park Junior High (now Simle Middle School) opened in 1961.

Hillside Park Junior High (now Simle Middle School) opened in 1961.

Over the next few decades, Bismarck would continue to add schools to accommodate the rapidly expanding city. In 1958, Hughes Junior High was constructed to supplement the current junior high, which itself was torn down after the opening of Hillside Park Junior High (now Simle Middle School) in 1961. Wachter Junior High opened in 1967. To alleviate the overcrowding at the high school, Century High School opened in 1976. Horizon Middle School replaced Hughes in 2001. The Hughes building continues to house South Central High School and administrative offices for the district. Construction began in 2009 on a new public elementary school, Sunrise Elementary, expected to open for classes in Fall 2010.

Among the private school options, Saint Mary’s Central High School was completed in 1952 and Shiloh Christian School first opened in 1978.

Bismarck History Chapter Index: