11 Most Endangered Historic Places

East Side School and Middle School

Year Listed: 2003
Location: Iowa
Threat: Neglect, Poor Public Policy

Significance

For more than a century, the majestic twin towers of Decorah’s East Side School have dominated the skyline of this farming community nestled in the scenic hills of northeastern Iowa. A rugged example of turn-of-the-century design and a time-honored symbol of the hopes and dreams of generations of Decorah residents, the school was built in 1896 and remained in continuous use until 1999. But today, East Side is empty, deteriorated and along with the adjoining Middle School, built in 1922 facing an uncertain future. Perhaps more than any other building type, historic neighborhood schools such as East Side represent the bond between the community’s past and present and the collective memory of thousands of local citizens but thousands of these treasured landmarks have been reduced to rubble in recent years. Before too long, Decorah could be next in line to hear the sound of the school bell replaced by the crash of the wrecking ball.