The Highlandville School north of Decorah is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“I’m pretty excited, having been a student there. It’s a local treasure,” said Dennis Karlsbroten, a member of the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors, a Highlandville Trustee and a former member of the Winneshiek County Historic Preservation Commission.
The Commission pursued the National Register listing last fall; the Commission’s efforts were endorsed by the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors in September.
“It reflects the history of education in Winneshiek County, which actually has some of the best preserved schoolhouses in the state and probably the country,” Commission member Dave Stanley told the supervisors at the time.
The Highlandville School also is unique because it is a “village structure,” not a school isolated in the countryside, he said.
Constructed in 1911, the school closed its doors in 1964. The Highlandville School is located on the north bank of South Bear Creek, a stream that cuts through the unincorporated village of Highlandville.
“The Highlandville School is locally eligible for the National Register under Criterion C because it serves as an exceptional example of rural schoolhouse architecture, particularly two-room schoolhouses, which are noticeably less common than one-room schools in Winneshiek County,” the school’s National Register nomination stated.
“Most Winneshiek County rural schools do not have a belfry or two-door entries. The Highlandville School has both of these features, making it an oddity among Winneshiek County schools. With nearly all of the original architectural elements remaining, this building can certainly offer important information concerning rural schoolhouse design.”
There are currently no known plans to alter the property. It remains in the care of the Highland Township Trustees and will likely continue as a community center and a location for musical events and dancing.
While most schools in rural Winneshiek County were one-room schoolhouses with mixed grades, the Highlandville School was one of the few schools that had graded classrooms. The school closed in 1964 due to school consolidation.
Karlsbroten said a committee including former Highlandville School students would be organizing a fundraiser this summer to buy a sign for the school.
In 2011, during a country school reunion on the 100th anniversary of the school, enough funds were raised to fix windows, repair flooring in the entryway and improve electrical service.
Karlsbroten, a Highlandville trustee for 25 years, said the trustees have worked hard to make sure the school remains standing with “limited finances.”
“It’s not necessarily in tip-top shape, but it’s in pretty good shape … we feel good about that,” Karlsbroten said.