Lightning Strikes School: In Northrop’s 100 year anniversary, building suffers another mishap


Carter Puckett

Top to bottom: Insulation, along with debris from the ceiling of Anna Reid’s closet, created a mess in the halls Tuesday morning. Consequentially, a large hole in the ceiling of the gym instituted an odd assortment of chaos.

Isaac Gittleman, Columnist

In the 100th year of the Northrop building, havoc has struck. After the October pipe break left the school out of commission for a few days, another disaster struck in the form of a lightning bolt. Joe Ruggiero jokingly referred to the building as “Old Lady Northrop” and said that “[the building] is a little bit run down and maybe haunted.”

     At around 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 16, lightning struck the corner of the school directly above Anna Reid’s room. This caused a fire in the closet containing newspaper archives, English department files, and unused furniture.    

     The school’s alarm system set off a call to the fire department and they showed up soon after. Director of Buildings & Grounds, Lisa Uhler, commented, “[The Minneapolis Fire Department] sent a great team of firefighters, and did a great job inspecting all areas of the building from head to toe in order to ensure we could safely enter the building. Thanks to them, the damage to the building was minimal compared with what it could have been.”

     The firefighters showed up in the storm, found the fire, cut a hole in the roof to let smoke out of the building, and proceeded to extinguish the fire. The fire department didn’t allow anyone, not even Russ Gronlund, the Upper School Lead Maintenance, near the fire at first. After the scene was calmed down, Gronlund cleaned out the entire closet in Reid’s room.

          In the wake of this incident, some safety precautions are being considered for the building. Ruggiero mentioned among recovery actions, “One of the things we’re investigating right now is why we didn’t have lightning rods, which are in a lot of public buildings to channel [lightning].” Given that Northrop is now 100 years old, are there any other safety measures that need to be updated?

     Additionally, there was flooding in the gym, also from the storm. The fire department stated that the leaks in the gym and the lightning strike were unrelated. They thought it was more likely that the leakage was caused from the heavy rain.

     Northrop Collegiate School was an all-female college preparatory school from 1900 until the merger of Blake, Highcroft, and Northrop into Blake in 1974. Throughout the 100 years of the building’s existence, there have been some remodels, but Karen Phillips says that some old science equipment and other minor Northrop legacies are still here.

     So much of our 100 year old school is lesser known. There was a brief panel discussion celebrating the landmark year last week, but it was not geared towards students. It might be time to try to tap into the history that surrounds us daily and start to learn more about our school. If we don’t, lighting might strike twice.