A Quick History of Excelsior Academy

by | Aug 2023

Artist’s rendering of Galpin Hall, Excelsior Academy (1885).

Artist’s rendering of Galpin Hall, Excelsior Academy (1885). Photo: Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society Archives

The Lake Minnetonka area offers students a variety of educational opportunities. In the past, it also offered a unique college. Long a community dream, the Excelsior Academy was organized in 1884. It prepared both genders for college and was a feeder school for Carleton College in Northfield.

Excelsior residents attended this private, Christian preparatory school tuition free. The academy’s Galpin Hall stood between present-day Academy Avenue, Water Street and Highway 7, overlooking College Lake and College Avenue. This major attraction drew over 800 people from around the Twin Cities to witness the laying of its cornerstone in 1885. But due to its local scope and “meager patronage,” it did not survive beyond its 1888–1889 session.

The building was sold and reopened as the Northwestern Christian College in 1891. An early college catalog shows the school’s novel initial structure: “The little ones entering the kindergarten can remain in this school, taking the successive studies as they are qualified to do so, until they have obtained their master’s degrees.”

The building mysteriously burned on December 6, 1896, ending Excelsior’s stint as both a college town and a “dry” town. The students and faculty moved on and took their pro-temperance votes with them, leaving Excelsior to go “wet” by just five votes the following year.

Kirsten Pardoe serves as the secretary of the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society’s Board of Directors. Discover more at elmhs.org.


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