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Fire destroys St. Lawrence School: The school closed in 1983, had been used as a bar, residence

Posted: Thursday, Aug 4th, 2011

A forklift pushes what remains of the old St. Lawrence school into the basement. The two-story building was destroyed by fire Tuesday. In the next photo, small fires keep burning in the basement of the structure. PHOTOS BY  ROGER KASA/PLAINSMAN

ST. LAWRENCE — The two-story old St. Lawrence school building was completely destroyed by fire Tuesday, erasing what some bystanders said was an eyesore for the community.

But for Winona Denke, the fire destroyed some of her family belongings, including school materials that belonged to her three children.

The school was shut down in 1983. The building was used as a bar for a time and Denke lived in the facility for about three-and-a-half years.

She moved out about two years ago and currently resides in Wessington.

Miller Fire Chief Steve Resel said the fire call came at 3:17 p.m. “When we arrived fire, which had started in the basement, was coming out of the ceiling,” he said.

He doesn’t know what started the blaze, but said a fire marshal from Plankinton would arrive today to determine the cause. In addition, an arson dog from Mitchell also will be brought in to probe the debris.

Resel said firemen from Miller and Wessington responded to the fire.

He said no injuries were reported.

He said when his crew came the second floor was caving in and the firemen decided not to try to enter the building.

When the building was used as a school, the last principal to serve was Dorothy Murphy.

Resel said 25 firefighters from Miller and 15 from Wessington fought the blaze.

Denke said she moved out of the building two years ago.

But she was planning to convert the school into a bed and breakfast.

She owns the building, but didn’t have any insurance.

Denke said it was difficult to watch the building come down. She stood by St. Lawrence Mayor Shirley Peck in watching firefighters battle the blaze.

Denke, who is a medical transcriptionist for a California company, said she lost some of her personal belongings in the fire.

In converting to a bed and breakfast, she planned to use some antique items that she has accumulated.

One of the witnesses to the fire said he attended school at St. Lawrence. Their athletic teams were called the Wolves.

After the high school closed, an elementary school was operated in the building before finally closing in 1983.

For the complete article see the 08-03-2011 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 08-03-2011 paper.

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