Demolition leaves a hole downtownFormer St. Joseph School building had stood for nearly 60 years
By: Nathan Hansen, Rosemount Town Pages
The landscape might seem a little bit emptier along Highway 3 this week, a little like a smile with a tooth missing.
When construction crews took a pair of backhoes to the former St. Joseph School early Monday morning, they were pulling down a landmark that has been part of the view for more than half a century in downtown Rosemount.
The school building, which has been empty since students moved to their new school in September of 2009, was demolished to make way for a planned senior housing complex and a public senior center. That building is still in the planning stage.
The building the new complex will replace stood for more than 59 years in its space next to what was once St. Joseph Church.
According to a documentary created two years ago to celebrate the history of the church, the earliest planning for the school began in 1947, when Father James Furey had dreams of expanding offerings for school-age students.
The school wasn’t much more than a dream until January of 1952, when a building committee agreed to move forward with the plan. The church bought a nearby home to serve as a convent and in June of that year reached an agreement with the Sisters of St. Agnes to run the school.
The church broke ground on the new school in June of 1952 and students started attending classes there in September of 1953.
The school grew rapidly. By January of 1957 church members agreed to build an addition. The first carload of brick was delivered in May and the addition was opened to students when school started in September. At the time there were 221 students, five sisters and one lay teacher. A new school library was dedicated a month later.
Most of the nuns who ran the school were gone by 1980, replaced by lay teachers. The convent’s influence did not disappear entirely, though. Sister Mary Louise McKenna came to St. Joseph in 1989 to work with faith formation for grade school students.
“We did everything,” McKenna says in the documentary. “We did a lot of fun things, and I enjoyed every moment of it.”
McKenna worked on a typewriter when she first arrived at St. Joseph because the school didn’t have a computer. Eventually she made a deal with school administrators: she would buy the computer if they bought the equipment to go with it.
Tom Joseph has been the school’s administrator since 1986. He brought many improvements to the school in its former location, converting a teachers’ lounge to a science lab and a storage room to a music room. The school got its first playground equipment in 1988.
“What I really value in our education process is that we can teach the gospels to children and we also encourage them to do service work and reach beyond themselves,” Joseph said.
When St. Joseph Church moved from its location adjacent to the old school in 1995 the city of Rosemount bought both the church building and the adjacent school. The city leased the school building back to the church until the new school opened in September of 2009.
There was talk of using the old school along with the Steeple Center, the new name for the former church, but nothing came of those plans. The city is currently working with developers to put a new building in place of the one that is now gone.