Although the date stamped on the building is 1920, Roosevelt Elementary School wasn't opened to students until the fall of 1921. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of its construction, The Press took a dive into its archives to share the history of the district's oldest public school.
In January 1920, a petition bearing 795 signatures was presented to the Dickinson School Board in support of a $80,000 bond for a new elementary school on Dickinson's east side to address crowded conditions in the city's schools.
The Dickinson Press wrote at the time, "No city in the state is in greater need of such a building than Dickinson and it is felt that there need be no fear as to the successful outcome of the special election to be held January 30."
When voters approved the school bond, bids were put in for the project and Charles Bakke of Dickinson, who bid a little more than $85,000, was awarded the contract for the construction of the school. J.W. Molloy was awarded the contract for plumbing and heating.
On Nov. 6, 1920, The Press reported that the cement work on the basement was completed.
"Contractor Charles Bakke expects to begin brick laying operations within a short time," wrote Press staff. "Owing to the scarcity of labor and material work on the new building has been handicapped to a great extent and unless good weather prevails much longer than usual, it is doubtful whether much will be accomplished on the new structure until early spring. Work on the new grade school on the east side is being pushed forward with rapidity and it is hoped that the building can be enclosed before winter weather sets in, in order that the interior may be finished during the cold months to come."
On Dec. 11, 1920, The Press reported that the brick work on the building had been completed and it was now enclosed.
"It is not known at this time whether it will be possible to continue work on the inside of the building during the winter months," wrote Press staff. "It is doubtful, however, if the building can be finished in time to be used during the present term."
Work on the school continued throughout the year 1921, and it was in that year that the school was named.
On Jan. 22, 1921, The Press reported that it had partnered with the school board to hold a contest for the name of the new school. The contest, which lasted through Feb. 5, was open only to students in Dickinson Public Schools. The winning student was awarded $5 by The Press.
"The only condition is that the suggested name must be accompanied by an essay not more than 200 words in length telling why the contestant believes that name should be chosen. In case more than one contestant should suggest the same name, the prize will be awarded to the one who, in the opinion of the judges, submits the best essay. The judges of the contest will be well-known Dickinson residents who are engaged in educational work or who have great interest in the welfare of its schools."
The winner of the contest was announced in The Press on Feb. 12, 1921. Dorothy Scherffius won the essay contest and the name Roosevelt was chosen for the school. Nearly 30 names were suggested, but Roosevelt was a popular one, with 36 of the 87 contestants suggesting it. All but two contestants were in grades 8-12.
The Press printed at least three essays from the student contestants. Some quotes from the essays include, "The name Roosevelt is enough to inspire any pupil to do his best"; "Because Roosevelt lived in this part of the country, was so interested in schools and education and had such a strong character, I think the new East Side school should be called the Roosevelt school. This would be the greatest monument you could dedicate to such a man."
Other names suggested for the school included Messersmith, P.S. Berg, Lincoln, Wilson, Horace Mann, Claxton, Franklin, Echo, Foley, De Witt Clinton, Principia, Pioneer Memorial, Hoover, Pleasant Valley, Socratese, Rockefeller, W.L. Richards, Queen City, Manning, Educator, Nathan Hale, Noah Webster, Pershing, Hazel Miner, Lewis & Clark, S.T. May and Frances E. Willard.
Construction on the school was completed in early September 1921 and The Press boasted its modern attributes.
"Built of brick, with mastic floors and steel casings throughout, the new structure is a model one and absolutely fireproof. With the exception of the doors and window sashes, but little wood was used in its construction. No greater precaution could have been taken by the architect and board of education in safeguarding the lives of the children against the fire demon," wrote Press staff on Sept. 10.
Roosevelt Elementary opened its doors to students on Sept. 12, 1921, housing students in grades K-6th and run by Principal Ida Agern.