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Nary School Revitalization: Everything Old is New Again

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Wayne Hoff and the revival of a beloved country schoolhouse

… I had my doubts if I could do anything to affect any of this and lo and behold, it's really coming together. – Wayne Hoff on reviving the Nary School

The country school in Helga Township where Wayne Hoff attended first and second grade, left an imprint on his heart. A constant element in tales of generations of family stories, the Nary School was more than a structure in which to be educated, it was part of family lore, part of the history of rural experience.

Closed in the 1970s, Nary School remained empty for nearly 50 years. Plans to tear down the school began floating around, and Hoff wondered what could be done about its fate. To date, more than $600,000 have been secured for renovations. The building and adjoining Heritage Park are now home event spaces, classrooms, a theater, a hockey rink, and a revival of activities, idea sharing, and inspiration on the campus.

… what happens in a small community, the school gets abandoned, they try to use it for town halls and community centers, and then if it doesn't work out, then pretty soon the suggestion is, ‘well, let's just demolish it and build a little metal town hall.’ … I could not bear the thought of that…And the rest is history...We need to just aim high…what we need to shoot for is getting some sort of education or school back in there…in the meantime - concerts, recitals, receptions… a lot of things can take place in there. – Wayne Hoff

Click on the green bubble above to hear about securing funding, renovations, and what possibilities are in the future for the new Nary School, originally built in 1919.

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Katie Carter started at Northern Community Radio in 2008 as Managing Editor of the station's grant-funded, online news experiment Northern Community Internet. Since 2016, she's produced Area Voices showcasing the arts, culture, and history stories of northern Minnesota. She's our local host of NPR's All Things Considered and CBC's As It Happens every weekday from 4-7pm.