The Grundy Center School system seems to of had its start in 1859 when Miss Sophia Severance taught summer classes in a log house located east of fourth street and north of main street. The first school building was built a year later in 1860. It had one room and did not have a floor when the first session of school began.
In 1873 /1874 Grundy Center had 400 residents and the one-room school was no longer adequate for the amount students so a new two room school was erected south of I Avenue between Ninth and Tenth Streets. In 1878 it was necessary to add additional rooms to the newly built schoolhouse. By 1884 even the additional rooms that were added to the originally two room schoolhouse were not enough. That year a two story building with four rooms per level was built which was named the Lincoln School. It was built so close to the original school building that you could literally walk from the roof of the original school onto the new building.
In 1890 the first attempt was made to try to get an electric service in Grundy Center by a Mr. Strickler. This operation was quickly sold to nine local residents for the price of $9,000. During the 18 years that followed the power plant grew to include two fire-tube boilers and one Corliss steam engine which drove a 50 kilowatt, 1,100 volt alternator and a smaller direct current generator able to power 20 carbon-arc street lights. (Picture pg. 34) The Corliss engine also drove the town’s water pump to allow these residents to start a steam heating system that served the business district for many years.
1891 was the first year there was a commencement at Grundy Center High School.
1893-1894 were the years where Grundy Center's first water works system was installed.
Any summer during from the year 1896 all the the way till the year 1966 there was a minor festival every Wednesday with music played on the courthouse lawn.
1897 the McKinley school was built to supplement the the 8-room Lincoln School building. In the year 1904 the first high school band was created at the school. Four years later in the year 1908 was the first year basketball was played at GCHS school.
In 1909 the price for electricity was 20 cents per kilowatt hour and about 100 customers connected to that grid. By approximately 1912 the 50 kilowatt alternator had been replaced by a 150 watt unit. There were incandescent street lights at every intersection in town. The generator was also operating 24 hours a day rather than just during the nights.
In 1913 the city council decided to take the bull by the horns and make a contract with the Dearborn Construction Company of Waterloo for 12 1/2 blocks of brick paving.
In 1914 there were an average of eight trains that passed though Grundy Center.
A new school was dedicated in 1916 as the old McKinley School was sold to the Christian Reformed Church for their new college. It included a modern gymnasium and locker rooms and facilities for home economics, manual training, music and kindergarten.
1917 began a period in the town existence that had never occurred before. It was a war that changed everybody’s way of life, whether it was the draft or the rationing of food. In the month of June in the year 1918 there were 511 men from from Grundy County and a flag with a star for each of them hung from a wire across main street. The first service flag included four gold stars, and more of the Grundy men were killed before peace came. That month a person could get more than the usual two pounds of sugar allotted by signing a canning certificate. The beef that a family ate could not exceed a pound and a half per person per week, including the bone.
In 1923 multiple newspapers in the town consolidated into one; it was named The Grundy Register.
1930’s forced the Grundy College to be closed due to the depression.
In 1931 a new power plant was built with a 500 kilowatt generator and a 265 foot smokestack.
From the time that Adolf Hitler was named the Chancellor of Germany in January 1933, World War II was inevitable. This war had an unforgettable impact on everybody in Grundy Center and all its citizens. Almost every home had a Service Flag in the window with a star for each member of the household who was in the armed services. On December 7, 1941 Japan decided to launch a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Congress declared war immediately after. At the time, Grundy County had approximately 2,400 adult male residents. Before the war was over, the County had a total of 1,200 enlisted or drafted men and women in the armed services.
Beginning in 1934 buses started driving students in rural areas to the school. Again a new school was needed as the old one was bursting at the seams. In the month of January in the year 1940 the new building was opened for use. This building expanded the campus to the east on Eighth Street between J and K Avenues.
The first ration of books were issued in 1942. Sugar was rationed first, then gas and tires. A speed limit of 35 mph was imposed to further conserve gas and tires. Coffee rationing began December 1, 1942 with each person over the age of 15 being allowed one pound of coffee every five weeks. By February 1943 canned and processed foods were rationed. Meat rationing was next on April 1, 1943. There were also salvage drives to help collect materials for the war. The American people were asked to buy bonds to help finance the war. In January 1946 The Grundy Newspaper headline read “GRUNDY COUNTY NUMBER 1 IN STATE IN ‘E’ BOND SALES. First in 99 Counties. Has Been in Top Ten All Along.” On December 14, 1942, there was a practice blackout that lasted for 20 minutes.
In 1948 new boilers and an additional turbine-generator was installed to boost plant capacity to 1,250 kilowatts.
More to come soon!