ST. CLOUD -- St. Cloud State University is preparing for a year-long celebration marking its 150th anniversary.

University Archivist Tom Steman says one of the first acts the Minnesota State Legislature did was establish Normal schools in the state.

The Minnesota State Legislature, their first session as a state, passed an act saying that there would be three Normal schools in the state of Minnesota in 15 years.  The state was divided up into three Normal school sections and St. Cloud was in the third one.  But within that act passed in August of 1858 was that the communities that wanted these Normal schools had to come up with $5,000.

St. Cloud had the third Minnesota Normal School, behind Winona and Mankato. The St. Cloud school opened on September 15th, 1869. (The term "Normal" was used by the French when they established these schools in the late 1600s.)

Stearns House, St. Cloud State University, 1874-1884 photo courtesy of St. Cloud State University Archives

Steman says the selection of the site in St. Cloud by the state normal board began in February of 1869.

There were actually four sites that were considered, one was the seminary square which is now what we call Barden Park, and there was one north of Lake George, and one was right downtown.  There was some controversy about where the school should be, a quote from one of the newspapers said that the downtown site they didn't like because it was too close to saloons.

The first building used by the school was the former Stearns Hotel. It was used from 1869 until 1874 and sat where there's currently a parking lot next Riverview. The second building was the Old Main Building which was used from 1874 until 1950. That was behind where Stewart Hall is now. Neither one of those buildings exists today.

Old Main Building (1874), exterior, St. Cloud State University, 1887? Photo courtesy of St. Cloud State University Archives

The school's first president, which was called 'principal', was Ira Moore, he eventually moved on to a school in Los Angeles that eventually became UCLA.

Tuition was free for students who completed and taught in Minnesota public schools for two years. That benefit lasted into the early 1930s.

The school's name has changed several times over the years, with the current name of St. Cloud State University coming in 1975.

-- 1869 - 1873 Third State Normal School
-- 1873 - 1921 State Normal School at St. Cloud
-- 1921 - 1957 St. Cloud State Teachers College
-- 1957 - 1975 St. Cloud State College
-- 1975 - Present St. Cloud State University

Steman will be a regular monthly guest on the New @ Noon Show with Jim Maurice throughout the coming year talking about SCSU's history.