We stopped by the “Albion State Normal School” on our way to City of Rocks. We didn’t plan on stopping anywhere, in fact we were going pretty fast when I noticed the cool old buildings and sign, and we were thoroughly interested once we read the name. It immediately make me think of “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children“, a fiction tale about a school for children with special talents (like levitating or invisibility). However, when we pulled over and learned more, the history of the place was far from a school for X-Men children, but was still pretty interesting. Apparently a normal school was a school created to train high school graduates to be teachers. Most schools of that type are now known as “teachers’ colleges”.
Albion State Normal School was established by the Idaho State Legislator in 1893. The citizens of Albion actively lobbied the schools establishment, and donated the land and labor for the new campus. The school offered a two year teacher training program until 1947, when it was renamed Southern Idaho College of Education (SICE) and awarded baccalaureate degrees. The school remained troubled by low income and lack of funding and finely closed by the state in 1951. During its existence Albion State Normal School awarded approximately 6,460 degrees. The campus remained vacant until 1957, when the Magic Valley Christian College opened at the site, and later closed in 1969. The beautiful historic campus was locked and boarded up until the City of Albion auctioned it off in 2007 when the Mortensen family purchased it with plans for a retreat.
We were able to walk the grounds a little; there was a private group in one building, and the larger building had no trespassing signs in the yard and people walking around inside. Despite not being able to go inside any of the buildings, it was cool to walk around outside and take photos. I decided to give the photos a treatment appropriate to the age of the oldest building.
You can rent an entire building, Miller Hall, that sleeps up to 75 people, for between $900- 1200 a night, or the “President’s Cottage” that housed the school president, for less. The new owners restored most the buildings to their original glory and are making good use of most of them, though some are still in disrepair. When we were still unsure what the place was, we joked that the building with the huge pipe was where unruley children go to shovel coal (or worse) but that wouldn’t go along with the purpose of the building I guess.
It’s always great to see old buildings like these still in use – more info, photos and history on their website – http://albioncampusretreat.com/