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Denfeld High School History

 

The home of the Hunters, Denfeld High School was known as Irving High School when it opened for classes on 11 September 1905. It was later called Duluth Industrial High School. When the school moved into today's MacArthur West school building at 725 North Central Avenue in 1915, its name was changed to honor Robert E. Denfeld, superintendent of Duluth schools from 1885 to 1916. During his tenure, the number of schools in Duluth increased from seven to 34. Denfeld was instrumental in the creation of a two-year program to train teachers which eventually grew to become the University of Minnesota Duluth.


The current building was constructed in red brick and limestone at a cost of $1,250,000 and opened in September 1926. Duluth architects Abraham Holstead and W.J. Sullivan designed the H-shaped English Gothic style building which features medieval carvings by Duluth master stone carver George Thrana. Thrana came to Duluth in 1889 from Norway where he was trained as a stone sculptor. He carved for 40 years in sandstone, granite, marble and limestone and his work is featured on many Duluth buildings including the Lyceum Theater, Old Central High School, Glensheen, the Board of Trade Building, St. Louis County Courthouse and the St. Louis County Jail.


Perhaps the most iconic feature of the Denfeld High School building is its 120-foot clock tower. The tower features eight buttresses. Its face was designed by Carl Shroer, a teacher at Central High School, and was completed by Denfeld students who welded together four sections cast in aluminum by the Duluth Brassworks Company. The numbers on the face were painted silver and the clock hands were gold painted wood. The face was later painted black to be easier read from Grand Avenue.


Denfeld High School's auditorium was built at a cost of $25,000 and is another of its most prominent features. It can accommodate nearly 2000 people in the audience, 200 on stage and includes an orchestra pit. Public figures who've visited in the auditorium include Richard Nixon and Johnny Cash. The auditorium was renovated for $1,200,000 and reopened in late 2006 after being closed for nearly a year. The auditorium is the annual venue for Denfeld's traditional Maroon and Gold Day assembly during the week of homecoming when the auditorium is adorned with maroon and gold decorations and the students are entertained with cheers, skits, music and school spirit. Alumni return to Denfeld for this display which is meant to motivate football players and fans for the homecoming game.