The History of Anoka High School

  • 1853 to 1854  

    1853 to 1854 were the years of the first school in Anoka County. It was a private school taught by Miss Julia Woodman and was located in a boarding house on Van Buren Street just east of Second Avenue. In the winter of 1854 to 1855 there was no school in the village of Anoka. Older pupils went to Nathan Shumway’s house in the town of Ramsey. Here Miss Sarah C. Bowen kept a private school. During the summer of 1855 a school was kept by Sarah Lufkin in a small building on the southwest corner of Van Buren Street and Third Avenue.

    In the fall of 1855 a larger building was constructed that was ready for occupancy in early December. This building later was known as the Third Avenue School House. There were forty-five or fifty students and the first teacher was George W. Smiley. In the summer of 1856, school was taught by Miss Lizzie Putnam. The winter session in 1856-57 was taught by Mr. Payne and later by Sewell A. Waterhouse.

    1866 to 1904  1866-1904 Irving School

    Anoka County was organized in the summer of 1857. At this time the village of Anoka west of the Rum River was placed in another district. In 1866 the two districts at Anoka united and constructed a two floor, four room school house located at Second Avenue and Monroe. This was known years later as the Irving School and housed grades 1 through 12.

    The first year all four rooms were used was 1867 to 1868. Enrollment was 245 students. Irving School was the only school house in the village for six years. It was used continuously until 1904 when it was moved to 2nd Avenue North so the new high school building could be built on the property.

    On June, 18 1881, the first regular high school year closed. The graduating class consisted of eight students. The last graduating class from here was in 1904 and consisted of 27 students. During the summer of this year, the building was relocated so construction could begin on the new high school.

    1904 to 1954  1904-1954 Anoka Senior High School

    In April of 1904, a bond issue was passed for the new high school. The corner stone was laid Sept. 24, 1904. Classes were held in downtown Commercial Hotel until the new building was completed in January of 1905. Enrollment at this time was 183 students. Cost for the construction of the new building was $30,000. The original dimensions were 75 by 100 feet.
    There were two main entrances and two wide halls. There were four rooms for grades and the superintendent’s office on the first floor. The second floor had an assembly room that seated 250, laboratories and recitation rooms. The restrooms, gymnasium and furnace were located in the basement. Enrollment in 1904 was 190 students for the high school grades nine through 12. Capacity of the building was 200 students.

    In 1913 temporary structures were erected to help with overcrowding. By 1925 the school held 425 students. There was no cafeteria. Many students went home for lunch or brought their own.

    In 1929 voters approved tearing down the temporary buildings to construct a new addition. The new wing opened Sept. 3, 1930, and the original building was also remodeled. The new addition had a gymnasium and auditorium on the main floor.

    In 1939 a second addition was added on the west end of the building. that included 12 classrooms and several offices. Extensive repairs were also done on the older part of the school. Enrollment at this time was 699 junior and high school students. This building served as the high school through the spring of 1953.

    Also in 1939, on June 18, a tornado destroyed much of Main Street in Anoka, just missing Anoka High School. One of our school teams was nicknamed the Tornadoes by a newspaper reporter and Anoka High School later took the Tornado as its mascot.

    1954 to 19721954-1972 Anoka High School

    July 1, 1953, construction was started on the new high school on Washington Street between 4th and 5th avenues. The 12-acre site was donated by Dr. George and Pearl Ghostley. The building was designed for a capacity of 1000 students. Construction was completed in September 1954 and became Anoka High School, with an enrollment of 848 students. The building consisted of 31 classrooms, a shop, home economics, science, art, typing, bookkeeping, speech, band, and choir rooms, as well as an auditorium, gymnasium and cafeteria.

    In 1959, a 23 classroom addition was added to the high school bringing the capacity to 1800 students. By fall of 1962 enrollment was 1700 students. Coon Rapids High School opened in 1965 helping to take some of the enrollment but in 1969-1970 two other additions were built, including music rooms and new gymnasiums. Capacity was now 1800 students but enrollment was 1879 students. In 1971, the last year this building was the high school, enrollment was up to 2082 students.

    1972-Present  1972-Present Anoka High School  

    1970 started the construction of new Anoka High School. Classes here began in 1972 and continue to the present date in the current location at 3939 7th Avenue.


    • History of Anoka County by Albert Goodrich published in 1905, reissued in 1976, located at the Anoka Historical Society.
    • Picturing Anoka County: 150 years of Anoka County History by Sharon Stockhausen.
    • On Both Sides: a Study of the Community of Anoka, Minnesota by Anoka High School Senior Social Science classes, published 1944, slightly edited and retyped 1975.
    • Anoka Union (Newspaper) September 1965 Centennial edition
    • Anoka County Union: Your Souvenir Bicentennial Issue: Anoka Minnesota published 1976.
    • City of Anoka Heritage Preservation Commission Plaque outside original Anoka High School located at 1902 2nd Ave, Anoka, MN.
    • Tornado Magic, A History of Anoka High School Sports by Craig Torbenson. Please visit to order.
    • All photos are from Anoka High School yearbooks.