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Bemidji All-School Reunion: Group seeks support, ideas for rebuilding old BHS entry

From left, Norman Malterud, Bemidji High School Class of 1964; Linda Lemmer, Class of 1964; Sharon Fruetel, Class of 1964; Mike Liapis, Class of 1966; and Tom Cooper, Class of 1968; look over salvaged sections of the old Bemidji High School that stood at the corner of 15th Street Northwest and Bemidji Avenue North. The committee is fundraising to rebuild the classical entry as a free-standing structure for a city keepsake. They are looking forward to showing off their plans during the All-School Reunion,...

The interior of Elma Rein's shed is filled with what looks like relics of an ancient archeological dig.

In a way, the appearance is reality. The chunks of carved building remains are pieces of the façade of the 1921 Bemidji High School that was demolished two years ago.

"This is what we saved; this is what we have. I was in charge of numbering everything," said Tom Cooper, BHS Class of 1968 and a member of the committee hoping to resurrect the marble archway as a city keepsake.

With financial help from community members and foundations, the committee spent $15,000 to take down the ornamented entryway. Volunteers transported the pieces to the storage shed.

"We hired a salvage expert from Duluth, and he used chisels and saws," said Linda Lemmer, BHS Class of 1964.

The façade looks like marble, but it is glazed terracotta decorated with flowers, leaves and other fanciful devices.

"It's really amazing when you look at the size of it," Cooper said.

The group is seeking suggestions for how the archway could be reassembled as a park feature or part of another structure. There was an initial thought of incorporating it into the Bemidji Regional Event Center, but that didn't work out. Another possibility is as an entry to a bicycle trail.

Financing the rebuilding could come from a single donor such as the man who paid for the renovation of the Big Fish in Bena. Or the funds could come from donations by BHS grads. The committee will fundraise during the Aug. 11-15 All-School Reunion by selling T-shirts, prints and pictures of the old school. There also will be a raffle for a piece of the entryway - a rosette that was a centerpiece of the façade.

For more information or to contribute support or ideas, call Lemmer at 751-3275 or Sharon Fruetel at 751-3146.

"It may be a couple of years before we can say we're going to start construction," said Norman Malterud, BHS Class of 1964. "Fundraising is going to be monumental."