Ceiling Collapses At Central, 1963

December 4, 1963

Dennis Moe views remnants of a plaster ceiling which crashed to the floor in Duluth Central High School’s cafeteria on Dec. 4, 1963. News Tribune file photo

On December 4, 1963, a huge portion of plaster ceiling came crashing down in Duluth Central High School’s cafeteria while school was session — and, miraculously, no one was in the usually-busy room at the time.

Here is the account from the next day’s News Tribune:

A tragedy that could have injured or killed as many as 30 students was averted by mere chance at 73-year-old Central High School Wednesday.

A portion of plaster and acoustical tile ceiling in Central’s cafeteria crashed to the floor at about 2:20 p.m., 90 minutes after the students had left the room following their mid-day lunches.

The damaged section measured about 30×10 feet and fell onto two tables, battering them and 20-30 chairs. … Weight of the section was estimated to be as high as three or four tons. …

Although Duluth voters recently approved a special $2.4 million tax levy for school improve-ments and construction, none of the bond issue provisions was for improvements at Central.

The School Board did, in 1961, initiate action aimed at obtaining a 60-acre tract for construction of a new Central High School. At that time, it was indicated the new school would be built within 10 years.


The board hit its early predictions right on the nose — in 1971, students left “old” Central and moved up the hill to start classes at “new” Central. Today, the landmark old school continues to be used for district offices, while the new school is slated for closure under the district’s long-range facilities plan.

Here is one more photo from old Central, of a busy hallway as viewed from a staircase in September 1969:

And here is a slightly zoomed-in view of some of the students:


* Last week there was a post that featured a photo of the Glass Block coffee shop. News Tribune reader Gail Reamer of Duluth called to let me know that she was the waitress behind the counter in that photo, with a cup of coffee in hand to serve to a customer.

4 Responses

  1. Ken (Hietala) Hyatt

    Many great memories from “Old Central” … Harry Meyer’s wonderful choir … Mr. Baldwin teaching WW-2 history with a week long showing of films. Mr. Bindler’s art class… Dale Baum’s English and Theater. Ms. Lauderbach’s English (toughest teacher, but the best), and Principal Mr. Beck, who everyone respected. Can’t remember the lady who taught world history, but I remember her warning against “appeasement.” I’m glad they preserved that wonderful sandstone structure … in my opinion, the grandest piece of architecture in the midwest. Ken (Hietala) Hyatt, Class of 1956.

  2. Pingback : Looking back at Duluth Central High School | News Tribune Attic

  3. Patt J

    I agree with Kathie. The “old” Central is one of the most beautiful structures in Duluth, and I’m glad they didn’t tear it down. I had to attend summer school classes there in the early 60s, and even then the inside was kinda ratty.

  4. Kathie

    I remember when ‘new’ Central opened and it seemed to have as many structural problems as ‘old’ Central.
    I was really happy to see that they decided to continue to use the old building. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture in the city.

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