Photo Gallery
2006 school demolition
Rolfe High School had its last senior class in 1990. Then the Rolfe schools merged with the Pocahontas schools. For several years, Rolfe had an elementary program and was the site of the Pocahontas Area Community middle school. However, in the spring of 2004, bricks fell from the upper part of the south face, destabilizing the facility. The state fire marshal determined that the building should be evacuated, and the PAC board of directors decided that the three-story section of the building that had been built in 1917 should be razed. Demolition of the building began on Monday, January 23, 2006.

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Photos by Helen Gunderson
Helen (RHS 1963) is the publisher of the Rolfe alumni web site. She lives in Gilbert, just north of Ames, and has a small business called Gunder-friend Productions. In the fall of 1989, Helen was living in California and began coming back to Iowa on photo forays to document changes in rural life. Her core documentary project is called The Road I Grew Up On: Requiem to a Vanishing Era. She has photographed the demolition of many important buildings in her heritage.

Some of those structures include the Victorian-style house built in 1907 at the farm where her grandparents lived between Rolfe and Pocahontas, the Rolfe Presbyterian Church, the VFW hall in Rolfe, the corncrib built in the early 1950s at her parents farm southwest of Rolfe, and now the Rolfe school building.

Greg Kaiser (1957), also took several photos of the school. We have posted ones that he took inside the building on the day before demolition began and a couple of shots that he took when the long reach excavator took its first punch at the building. His photos are on a separate page.

Click on any photo for a larger view. Also, if you have commentary, reminiscences, or other written material that you would like to post in relation to these images or memories that they evoke, please contact Helen.

The east end of the Rolfe school buildings. The gymnasium is to the right. It was built in the 1950s. The section that was demolished during the week of January 23, 2006, is in the far part of the photo and included the chimney. Camera faces west, northwest. (g-panoramic-2 )

The four-story stairwell on the north end and west side of the building. The basement portion of the stairs went to an area that was the gymnasium (albeit a very small one) prior to 1954, when the new gymnasium was built. The school lunch room replaced the old gymnasium and was the site of school proms. Also, for many years, there was an auditorium on the top level to the left (south) of the stairwell. And at the very top, there was a smaller set of stairs that led to the balcony of the auditorium. Helen can remember homecoming coronations, pep rallies, school plays, pep rallies, programs by Al Bell (a traveling educator with artifacts and movies from his world-wide travels), and other events in that auditorium.

West side of the building. The long reach excavator at work.


Mid-section of the west side of the building. The blue spot in the center top portion of the photo was probably covered by a wall map.




Upper portion of southwest corner of the building. The original damage that prompted evacuation of the school occurred when bricks fell from the south face of this area.

Lower portion of the southwest corner of the building. Workers removed a time capsule (box) from the area and gave it to Joe Kramer, the superintendent of the Pocahontas Area Community Schools.


South face of the building.



West side of the north end of the building.

Top of the southeast corner of the building.

West side of the building. (g-panoramic-3)

South end of the building.

South section of the building, camera facing skyward and north, northeast.

We found it particularly intriguing that many good items, including several lockers, were left in the building to be leveled with the rest of the rubble. The solid red, new lockers had replaced Rolfe's gold and red lockers as recently as in the year 2000 when the school was part of the Pocahontas Area Community School District. We wouldn't want to try to second-guess the drawn-out and complex decisions that have been made about the building. There may be many good reasons why more items were not recycled. But the image of the relatively new, red lockers does remind one of the throw-away attitude of our American society.

South end, camera faces east, northeast. The lower third of the old section of the building is in the foreground. The section in the mid-distance was built in the 1950s to house the home economics, band, shop, vocational agriculture, and kindergarten rooms. The gymnasium is in the far distance.

The deconstruction crew takes a break. Left to right: Jeff Tirevold (Armstrong), Gary Boecker (the long reach excavator operator from Estherville), Bryon Hantelman (Armstrong), and Chuck Nicosen (Armstrong).


Chuck Nicosen's great uncle was Sam Nicosen of Rolfe. Sam's wife, Geraldine Nicosen, was a well-known second-grade teacher in Rolfe in the early 1950s, and photographer Helen Gunderson was one of her students.



Go to demolition photos by Greg Kaiser (RHS 1957).

1999-2005 Rolfe Alumni Group

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