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Located in Duluth, Minnesota, Denfeld High School is one of three high schools in the city, along with Central and East. The home of the Hunters, Denfeld High School was known as Irving High School when it opened for classes on 11 September 1905. It was later called Duluth Industrial High School. When the school moved into today's MacArthur West school building at 725 North Central Avenue in 1915, its name was changed to honor Robert E. Denfeld, superintendent of Duluth schools from 1885 to 1916. During his tenure, the number of schools in Duluth increased from seven to 34. Denfeld was instrumental in the creation of a two-year program to train teachers which eventually grew to become the University of Minnesota Duluth.
The current building was constructed in red brick and limestone at a cost of $1,250,000 and opened in September 1926. Duluth architects Abraham Holstead and W.J. Sullivan designed the H-shaped English Gothic style building which features medieval carvings by Duluth master stone carver George Thrana. Thrana came to Duluth in 1889 from Norway where he was trained as a stone sculptor. He carved for 40 years in sandstone, granite, marble and limestone and his work is featured on many Duluth buildings including the Lyceum Theater, Old Central High School, Glensheen, the Board of Trade Building, St. Louis County Courthouse and the St. Louis County Jail.
Perhaps the most iconic feature of the Denfeld High School building is its 120-foot clock tower. The tower features eight buttresses. Its face was designed by Carl Shroer, a teacher at Central High School, and was completed by Denfeld students who welded together four sections cast in aluminum by the Duluth Brassworks Company. The numbers on the face were painted silver and the clock hands were gold painted wood. The face was later painted black to be easier read from Grand Avenue.
Denfeld High School's auditorium was built at a cost of $25,000 and is another of its most prominent features. It can accommodate nearly 2000 people in the audience, 200 on stage and includes an orchestra pit. Public figures who've visited in the auditorium include Richard Nixon and Johnny Cash. The auditorium was renovated for $1,200,000 and reopened in late 2006 after being closed for nearly a year. The auditorium is the annual venue for Denfeld's traditional Maroon and Gold Day assembly during the week of homecoming when the auditorium is adorned with maroon and gold decorations and the students are entertained with cheers, skits, music and school spirit. Alumni return to Denfeld for this display which is meant to motivate football players and fans for the homecoming game.
In the spring of 2007, restructuring of Duluth's elementary, middle and high schools was discussed. Three options were proposed:
The Duluth School District chose the Red Plan, leaving Denfeld open and adding approximately half of the Central population. To accommodate the increased student population, two new additions to the school are being built. Additionally, the school will undergo major reconstruction in order to conform to state standards. Construction began in 2009 and is scheduled to continue until 2011. To accommodate the new addition, Denfeld's signature brick chimney had to be removed. The chimney was an original feature of the building, but had not been used in many years. Construction crews cafefully removed the bricks, and the school plans to preserve some bricks for historcial purposes. As a result of the construction, students will have to attend Central during the 2010-11 school year. In 2011, Central will close, leaving Denfeld and East as the only high schools in Duluth.
Homecoming Week activities include daily dress-up days such as "Kid Day" (usually on Tuesday) and "Maroon and Gold Day" (every Friday for the last 100 years.) On Wednesday of Homecoming Week, a massive bonfire takes place in Merritt Park in West Duluth during which the game of Red Rover is usually played between the upper and lowerclassmen and every cheer in the cheerleaders' book is started. The biggest event during the week besides the football game and assembly is the hall decorating contest, where the interior first floor of the building is covered in handmade posters, streamers, locker signs, balloons and other decorations. Freshmen decorate the hall near the cafeteria and sophomores decorate the other half of the hall. Juniors decorate the second floor and seniors decorate the third floor.
Denfeld's Maroon and Gold Day is Friday of homecoming week. Students wear maroon and/or gold clothing and accessories. During the assembly, the band marches from the back of the auditorium through streamers and balloons to the orchestra pit playing the cadence and school song. Everyone stands throughout the entire assembly. After the school song is played, the National Anthem is sung followed by several skits, speeches by alumni and the Maroon and Gold Day Pageant. In this pageant, anybody can enter for a chance to become Maroon & Gold King or Queen. Each contestant is allowed to flaunt their costume and spirit to the audience. Winners are chosen by three judges, all Denfeld staff, based on audience reaction. After the pageant are more skits and the winner of the hall decorating contest is announced. The football team starting lineup is announced and the school song is played again at the end of the assembly.
The Denfeld Marching Band and the Dance Team always perform during the halftime show. After the game is a dance in the gymnasium which ends at eleven.
On October 11, 2007 Denfeld social studies teacher Thomas Tusken was presented with the Milken Educator Award, established by Milken Family Foundation Chairman Lowell Milken to provide public recognition and individual financial rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary teachers, principals and specialists who are furthering excellence in education. Only 35 educators in Minnesota had received the award at that time and Tusken was just the second recipient from Duluth. The award was presented to Tusken during an unexpected assembly, the purpose of which was unknown to students and staff. When Tusken's name was called, he received a standing ovation from the audience.
The "Hunters" name originates from Walt Hunting who taught, coached and was the athletic director at Denfeld from 1927-1956. A tribute to Hunting from his players, fans and the community at the silver anniversary of his coaching career in 1952 said, "It isn't the championships won that make Walt Hunting great. The boys who have played for him learned more than a game. They learned honesty, integrity and sportsmanship. Nobody could possibly be associated with Walt Hunting and not be better for it because he symbolizes everything great about America."
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