St. Louis Park sported two Fern Hill Schools. The first Fern Hill School was located at Minnetonka Blvd. and Ottawa.
The second Fern Hill Elementary School was located at 2800 Joppa Ave. Park of the land was the so-called “Stageberg Property,” also known as the “House on the Hill.”
The school was constructed in 1949 with 19 classrooms and two kindergartens, and opened on February 1, 1950. It was dedicated on March 8, 1950. The first year it served 700 students.
John Carlton-Foss has many memories of the school and its environs:
During the summer of I believe it would be 1950, I watched the construction of the school almost every day, walking there from 2712 Joppa Avenue. I thought it was the real Fern Hill School because the bulldozers and earth movers tore down a hill and used the material to fill in the swamp where the playground came to be. It all started with the bulldozer or two knocking down all the trees. Then the earth movers went in great ellipses to carry the soil to the low land. I attended kindergarten there during the first year it was in operation. Orlando Paske was the Principal. Miss Vegdahl was my first grade teacher. Miss Borders my second grade teacher. And so on.
I always wondered what might be the history of the abutting “old haunted house” at about 28th and Lynn on the south side of the street. It was two stories and fairly large, perhaps four good sized bedrooms upstairs, although I did not have the courage of my friends to climb the rickety stairs to actually see. There was a large entryway before you got to the stairs. On the left of the entryway was the large entrance to a living room. There was a rock lined storage cellar built into the back of the hill behind the haunted house. I think the house was burned by the fire department somewhere around in the 1970s.
Then there was Paul, who used to farm on a plot behind what was then called the home for elderly people on Minnetonka Blvd. [Star of Bethlehem] He had an old car that he would drive slowly through the neighborhoods to sell his vegetables, which he would put on the running boards and in the wheel wells next to the engine. Then one summer, probably about 1955, he stopped coming. We were told that the police had taken away his driver’s license. Around 1978 or so I looked for his plot of land, and it was mostly built on, but maybe there was some of it remaining. I wonder what happened to him.
In 1977 the School Board faced the necessity of closing two elementary schools. Park Knoll was a unanimous choice, since there was an offer for purchase by Knollwood. There was a split decision, however, as to whether the other school would be Eliot or Fern Hill. It was decided in April 1977 that Eliot would be the school to close.
But enrollment continued to plummet, and in 1982 Fern Hill II closed. In May an open house was held for former students and staff. Students were allowed to paint the walls along the top floor halls with pictures of Paul Bunyan, Tom Sawyer, pictures from Greek mythology, pirates, creatures from outer space, and so on. “All levels of ability” were on display.
The school was sold to Torah Academy.
The Historical Society has Fern Hill yearbooks from 1977 to 1982.