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Denfeld High School Class of 1963 - Latest News

07-05-2004 - Auditorium to get a face-lift
Posted on Mon, Jul. 05, 2004

Auditorium to get a face-lift
DULUTH SCHOOLS:Nearly $1 million in renovations are planned this year for the Denfeld High School auditorium.

Richard Nixon spoke there. Liberace raved about its acoustics. Johnny Cash performed there, too. Every year, hundreds formally graduate from high school on its stage.

And according to some accounts, the Denfeld High School auditorium even has a ghost.

In the next year, the stately facility will receive nearly $1 million worth of new paint and much-needed repairs to play a more polished host to momentous school and community events for years to come.

Repair work will begin after installation of a new roof. That project, under the direction of general contractor Amendola Construction Co., began last summer. Commercial Roofing is the subcontractor.

The roof and renovations are part of the district's 10-year facilities improvement plan. Costs will be covered by a combination of state money and money raised through special tax levy authority for school districts having aging facilities, said Kerry Leider, district facilities manager.

About $970,000 will pay to repaint the three-story-high, 1,800-seat auditorium and to make extensive repairs to both flat and ornate plaster damaged by water from a leaky roof. It was last painted in the 1970s.

"The dimensions of the auditorium, with the height of the ceiling and the sloping floors, make it a difficult job," Leider said.

While the project sounds expensive, said Denfeld principal Bill Westholm, it's justified by the history and the tradition of the building, completed in 1926.

"You're talking about 77 to 78 years of people in western Duluth," said Denfeld teacher Joe Vukelich, school historian. "For some people out there, that was one of the highlights of their life -- their marriage and their graduation from Denfeld."

Denfeld's architects probably would agree. They reportedly directed that no additions ever be built on the auditorium.

"It's kind of a snotty way of saying, 'Hands off,' " Vukelich said.

Hands off, indeed. That's exactly how students treat the auditorium, Westholm said.

"I know when I came here and I was a sophomore, the principal came out and said, 'Look around at this auditorium. You won't see a mark on a single seat because the kids take care of it,' " Westholm said while standing on the stage last week. "I came out here 10 years ago and I caught myself saying the same thing."

The hard wooden seats will remain untouched. Padding could interfere with the auditorium's acoustic integrity, Leider said.

The renovations will take at least six months. That means the school will have to find temporary venues for some big events -- and possibly the biggest event of all.

"If they start it too late in the fall, then we might have to move our graduation," Westholm said.

LISA MICHALS covers education. She can be reached at (218) 723-5342 or by e-mail at

2004 Duluth News Tribune and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

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