Central Square was built in 1916 as the high school for Glenwood. It is a key part of Pope County history. Its auditorium was dedicated on May 28, 1937, as an addition to Glenwood Central High School (now relocated as Minnewaska Area High School). The building with the historic auditorium and gymnasium were preserved and rededicated as Central Square on June 10, 1995.
Preserving our slice of “Small Town USA” has been a prolonged, arduous, rewarding, and very worthwhile journey. Glenwood, on the shores of Lake Minnewaska, is located a short 1-hour drive to the northwest of St. Cloud. Central High School, a WPA era (1937) building, in Glenwood MN was closed in September of 1991 and the wrecking ball loomed in its future. As with most of the rural areas of MN a consolidation of districts was deemed necessary in order to facilitate the changing educational needs of our children. Many of the older schools in MN were closed in the last 2 decades of the last century. With their closings, the character of much of small-town life changed. As many of the folks who have toured our Central Square have pointed out, the friendly face of the majestic older structures are disappearing from all too many towns as centralized rural mega school complexes replace them. Visitors commonly say they feel they have stepped back into their past which evokes fond memories of a by-gone era.
Central Square has been blessed with the contributions of many supporters that have brought this ever-evolving project to the point it is at today. Central Square is a 501c(3) non-profit organization. These years have been exiting years for Central Square, as we have seen all of the local and area support being sustained. We have saved the building from the wrecking ball and are making it something we can all be proud of. It is an attraction to the entire area as an Arts Center.
A sense of the awe for all of the efforts of a cadre of diverse people to tackle all of the facets of the preservation of this facility permeates the air when one enters the auditorium. The auditorium was the central focus of the preservation project. With seating for 1044 in the main seating area, it is one of the largest West Central Minnesota auditoriums between Minneapolis and Fargo. The architectural design of the building by N. W. Fisher of St. Cloud, incorporated vision and expertise with acoustical perfection. When seated anywhere in the entire auditorium one can experience the pure tonal quality of the stage performances.
The range of the variety of performers has been exciting over the past decade. Symphony orchestras, instrumental soloists and groups, pianists, singer- songwriters portraying many eras of American music, chorales, ethnic dance performances as well as multi-community groups coming together to perform have graced the stage. Some of the big names have included: Bobby Mcferrin, Lori Line, Gene Pitney, Mary Beth Carlson, Gary Puckett, Bobby Vee, The Platters, The Coasters, The Kingston Trio, Clay Crosse, Minneapolis Community College Gospel Choir, Rochester Symphony Orchestra, the Heartland Bluegrass Opry, and a host of other wonderful entertainers.
In 2003 the Central Square Board of Directors brought an annual concert series to Glenwood. In the first season, 4 concerts were offered and in the 2nd series this was expanded to 5 concerts, with more plans for future concert series to expand even further. Central Square is very proud to bring renowned performances to this wonderful venue, for the enjoyment of West Central Minnesota residents. An annual professional children’s theatre production is offered to schoolchildren, who travel as far as 80 miles, one way, for what is perhaps their only exposure to a professionally produced theatre experience.
In addition to the Historic Auditorium, our complex includes an in-house kitchen for catering events, rental space to various organizations and businesses, as well as a condominium wing housing private owners. The Second Floor Gallery hosts a wide variety of arts and cultural exhibits, many of museum quality.
All of this would be impossible without the continued volunteer workers and financial supporters we are so profoundly thankful for!