Welcome to the Alexander Baker School Reuse Project Page

Project located in International Falls, Minnesota

Here you will find historical information, building photos, floor plans and layouts and more information pertaining to the Reuse Project Plan for the Alexander Baker School Building located in the heart of International Falls, Minnesota.  If you would like additional information, please contact Ward Merrill at 218-373-3002 or wardmerrill (at)

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Alexander Baker School Chronology 1912 - 2019

  • 1912 Construction begins 
  • 1914 The Alexander Baker School is dedicated in June
  • 1936 The E.W. Backus School is constructed directly to the south of the Baker School
  • 1978 In response to energy concerns the windows in the Baker and Backus Schools are down-sized and partially filled in with insulated panels 
  • 1983 The Alexander Baker School is tuck-pointed
  • 1987 The Backus auditorium is refurbished
  • 1988 School District #361 offices move into the Alexander Baker School from Falls Junior High School and all classes move out of the School
  • 1991 All traditional classes move out of the Backus School, but portions of the building remain in use for other school district purposes
  • 1995 The School District offices move to the Backus School from the Baker School, and a sprinkler system is installed in part of the complex
  • 1996 Hail damages the roof of the Alexander Baker and Backus Buildings
  • 1999 Alexander Baker and Backus Buildings are placed on Preservation Alliance of MN’s list of “10 Most Endangered Historic Buildings”
  • 2002 Citizens for Backus/AB, Inc. purchases the Alexander Baker and Backus Buildings for $850
  • 2004 Alexander Baker and Backus Buildings are placed on the National Register of Historic Places
  • 2005 A market analysis of housing potential for the building is conducted
  • 2008 $180,000 is raised to replace the roof 
  • 2010 SJA Architects develop plans for repurposing the Alexander Baker building for a KOOTASCA service center and apartments 
  • 2016 Environmental testing is conducted
  • 2016 The Voyage Forward "Quality of Life" Destiny Driver Team tours the Baker Building. The potential for affordable housing becomes apparent to KOOTASCA and Backus staff
  • 2017 Asbestos is removed from a 3rd floor classroom and other areas encapsulated and secured
  • Boards of Directors of Backus and KOOTASCA sign joint resolutions to work toward the reuse of the AB School
  • Original 1912 Boiler Refractories are re-built
  • Koochiching County Housing Collaborative is organized by KOOTASCA and Backus. 24 stakeholders join the table to discuss housing issues and solutions for the community
  • 2018 Koochiching Co. Housing Collaborative raises more than $35,000 to conduct a housing study
  • Community Partners Research begins work on a comprehensive housing study 
  • Site visit by the Preservation Alliance of MN
  • KOOTASCA is awarded a “Strengthening Rural Communities” grant for technical assistance for the Alexander Baker project from MN Housing Partnership
  • Backus receives a MN Historical Society grant award of $10,000 to conduct a “Conditions Assessment” of the Alexander Baker Building 
  • 2019 Backus and KOOTASCA apply to participate in the American Institute of Architects Search for Shelter Design Charrette
  • Kaas Wilson Architects hired to complete a building conditions assessment
  • Community Partners Research completes the housing study and makes significant recommendations for addressing housing challenges in Koochiching County. The study recommends the rehabilitation and re-use of the Alexander Baker School as affordable housing
  • Alexander Baker Building selected to participate in the American Institute of Architects Minnesota Search for Shelter Design Charrette 

The AB Building on the left, with the Backus building being constructed to the right

The AB Building on the left, with the Backus building being constructed to the right