August 14, 2010: Cornerstone of Traer School built after the 1917 fire, now the core of the North Tama school, along the hallway connecting the original building and the elementary.
One hundred years ago tonight, within a week of the United States’ entry into World War I, the Traer school burned down.
A class of girls which was rehearsing in the Traer high school last night for an operetta narrowly escaped death when fire broke out. All were rescued without harm, although many were hysterical. The fire almost totally destroyed the building, which was erected eight years ago. It is believed to have originated thru defective wiring in the attic, as the fire broke out in the roof and manual training room on the attic floor. (Waterloo Evening Courier)
Because of the fire, Traer became one of the Iowa towns with classic symmetrical, brick multi-story buildings from a construction period that ended around the Great Depression. Lots of core schools around Iowa — many in use, many not — will be having centennials over the upcoming 10 years.
Excavation begins for an elevator on the north side of the 1917 school building in Traer in 1994. Additions since then have hidden everything visible in this family photo from the middle of the third floor down.
The 1917 building runs longer north-south, allowing for classrooms on the east and west sides to have natural light. Because the main entrance was on the west side — where the cornerstone is — the school’s address remains 605 Walnut St. despite all future main entrances facing Sixth Street. A reminiscence in the Traer Star-Clipper includes an excellent photo from the northwest corner.
There have been many, many additions in the decades since. The last one, in 2010, removed all the remaining open space on the Sixth Street side and created an imposing new front entrance and new gym entrance, all with vaulted ceilings (SO STUPID — Ed.) that obscure everything from before on that side. From Walnut Street, the 1917 building still rises above the 1964 elementary, and the south side view is unobstructed.
Next fall the structure built after the 1917 fire will have served Traer, Traer-Clutier, and North Tama students for a century. May it serve for a century more.