Arlo Levisen is the President of the Grant County Historical Society. He has extensive knowledge on the history of the area, including: Grant County History, Big Stone Lake History, the History of the Holland Grist Mill, the History of the Milbank Congregational Church and much more! Send in your questions. Arlo will have the answers!
How did Koch School get its name? P.H.
Koch Elementary School was named for Charles Koch and his son, Floyd Koch, who together served on the Milbank School Board for a total of about 30 years. Koch School was constructed in 1956 to serve 737 elementary students.
Was the elementary school always on that property? If not, where was it located before its current site? D. T.
Complete and accurate records related to the school buildings constructed and used in Milbank since the town was founded in June 1880 have been complicated by the burning of the original courthouse in 1895, and the burning of Milbank High School in 1943. In both cases, records, especially the earliest ones, were lost.
Harvey Marquette, a former superintendent of schools for Milbank, created a record he entitled The Milbank Schools. His document was published in 1978 in the book 100 Years in Grant County 1878-1978. Since 1978, other tidbits have been discovered, many from the earlier times, that help to complete the story a bit more accurately.
In the 1880 school term, elementary classrooms were rented in the upper levels of the newly-created Main Street buildings. In 1882, the town decided to construct a wooden school building for all grades on the site that became the location of the original high school.
One of the first elementary school buildings specifically constructed for use as a school was built in 1881, just across the street from the City Auditorium. This building was taken down in 1900 by Henry Volkmar, who constructed a building to house the Grant County Review. This building later became the OddFellows Hall, then a church, then it was taken down and replaced by the first Milbank Clinic. In turn, the clinic building was demolished and today the property is part of the Wells-Fargo parking lot.
In 1906, the student population was growing so fast that a much larger brick building was constructed for all grades. This plan lasted until 1929, when the Central school building was constructed.
Central, was located just to the east of the high school building on the same piece of ground. It was constructed in 1929 and did not burn in the 1943 fire, which took down only the 1906 building. Given the difficulty in finding building materials during the war years, however, the older students were educated in classrooms around town, until the new high school was completed in 1949.
The post-World War II baby boom hit Milbank hard and strained the school system and its facilities. Thus, the stage was set for the construction of Koch Elementary School. The City Auditorium had been serving as high school classrooms, but quickly became elementary classrooms in the early 1950s and while Koch School was being constructed.
If you are counting, that comes to five locations in almost 140 years. Thanks for asking!