On the morning of August 21st the doors to the new Upper Campus at 3100 West River Parkway opened for the first day of classes for the first time.
For the students who spent the last two years navigating the tight halls and "Chapelteria" at Mendota, the spacious commons area, expansive windows, and bright classrooms felt like a deep breath of fresh air.
"I am really glad that the architects were able to incorporate more windows and natural light into the new space. It helps me feel more connected to nature and the beauty right outside the school," said junior Leah Wasson.
"Some of the rooms are like having class in a treehouse," observed multiple students.
As a community we were blessed and honored by all of the people who made it possible for students to study at Mendota, and made it happen in record time. Coming home to the 3100 building, however, brought with it the excitement of the new interlaced with the memories of the many years and many people who came before us.
From alumni to students, faculty to parents, numerous individuals and groups had a hand ensuring that the new, modern school would retain aspects of past as well as honor the heart of who we as the Minnehaha Community are.
Join us as we walk through the new building, sharing the history and significance of the various spaces.
Monument Sign & Time Capsules
Students arriving at the main entrance (see header image) encountered one of our most valued items rescued from the blast: the 1912 cornerstone and monument sign. Workers carefully recovered these pieces from the original building and reinstalled them at the main entrance to the school. Additional cornerstones found new homes in the 3100 building as well, and you can see the 1922 cornerstone to the left of the brick installation on the previous page. The cornerstone and other parts of the building contained time capsules from 1912, 1922, and 2002.
The capsules included numerous papers in Swedish, including a letter from Andrew Skoog that Swedish faculty member Katja Ornberg worked on translating. There were also early copies of the Arrow, two bibles, a songbook, and the senior prank video from the class of 2003. Of special note was a letter from the class of 2003 that reflected on the fear they saw in society after 9/11 and their desire to not let that fear prevent them from opening their arms to individuals from around the world.
A longstanding tradition at Minnehaha has been for the seniors to decorate "their" hallway. Several recovered senior lockers have been installed in the Watson Art Gallery to commemorate fond memories and the traditions of Minnehaha alums.
Entering through the front door, students found themselves immediately face to face with an homage to our history and strong foundation. The 1922 brick installation in the Sundet Commons artfully hangs in front of an image of the original Minnehaha buildings. The 1922 bricks feature new (at the time) brick technology—three holes in the center of the brick—a design that allowed bricks to be made just as strong, but with less material and weight. The bricks are hung with wires through these holes. Along the wall in what was once the school's main entryway a second display includes bricks from the 1912 building, each inscribed with names of donors who helped make the new building possible.
As you enter the prayer chapel, you can't help but look up. Three stories up. A window at the very top lets in a beam of light that reflects down to those below. Located in the heart of the school, the prayer chapel reflects the heart of Minnehaha as a distinctively Christian school. Students, staff, and visitors are invited into this sacred space. The Prayer Chapel quite literally is also one of the primary physical supports, connecting the new riverside buildings to the existing chapel building. The Prayer Chapel is a load bearing structure, holding up many other elements with its strength.
Two black olive trees stand in the heart of the new school beneath a large skylight as symbols of peace and friendship. The trees also represent the unwavering strength and unity of the Minnehaha Academy community, a reminder for many generations of students to come.
At the north end of the school’s first 1912 building was a staircase that continued from the basement up to the third floor. The cement stair treads on that staircase were used by all students for 105 years. These same stair treads, recovered after the explosion, line the area in the commons area near the two trees, allowing students to quite literally step through history. It is exciting that generations of future students will walk in the footsteps of those that came before them.
The signed beams are installed above the olive trees. They are covered with signatures from students, alumni, staff and parents who signed the beams in the fall of 2018. The beams serve as a daily reminder of the strength and resiliency of the community.
A prominent display students encounter daily is the timeline that stretches along the wall across from the Student Services office. This wall draws readers along from T.W. Anderson's becoming president to the centennial celebration in 2013. From the founding of the Minnehaha Singers in 1934 through Guido Kaul's introduction of soccer in 1961 and the approval of dancing in 1990, students encounter an expansive overview of some of the more interesting moments in MA history.
If you haven't had a chance to visit the new school yet, we welcome you to call and schedule a tour. For alumni, call Nicole Sheldon at 612-728-7796. For families interested in learning more about the school, call Michelle Ulland at 612-728-7763.