"Someday the ore will be gone. We might as well have a good time while it lasts, and get ourselves something to remember it by."
Hibbing High School was built in 1924. Modeled after the Capitol Theater in New York, it cost 4 million dollars - thanks to high taxes on the mining companies. Tiffany glass chandeliers, a Barton organ, swimming pools and multiple gyms. A government reporter described Depression-era Hibbing as ‘a sort of story-book town’ where the expensive high school contained a clinic ‘that would do credit to the most perfectly equipped metropolitan hospital.’ Many in the country believed Hibbing squandered away the wealth accumulated by unfairly taxing mining corporations, a situation often blamed on Hibbing mayor Victor Power. (Info and quotes from Taconite Dreams.)
I grew up just blocks from the high school. Like most Hibbing residents in the ‘80s and before, I was raised with pride in the storied buildings and the history of the town (Hibbing was moved early on to make way for the Hull Rust Mahoning mine). The truth is, things have changed a lot in the last century.
The person (unknown) quoted above little knew that 30 years later the taconite industry would try to replace the glory days of high-grade ore. Has taconite succeeded? Or will precious metals mining, such as Polymet? The world is changing quickly; are the boom and bust cycles that manifest all Hibbing’s ornate buildings still something to aspire to?
I want to thank the staff at Hibbing High School for generously allowing me a half day with the organ!