Creepy Abandoned Schools of Rural Iowa

A school sits abandoned in a small town in rural Iowa, as it has for more than fifty years. Untouched by graffiti, the grand old structure has been eaten away by the ravages of Mother Nature.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

The sun touched the horizon behind a cottony layer of clouds as I drove into the small rural town of Clutier, Iowa. After a day of exploring an incredible abandoned brick yard, the ruins of an old boarding school, and a beautiful decimated grade school, I wasn't quite ready to call it a night.

Despite my exhaustion, I couldn't resist the urge to check out a couple more abandoned schools before I ran out of daylight.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

Clutier, Iowa is a neat little town of around 200 people, covering three-quarters of a square mile in the Salt Creek Valley region of Tama County. Founded in 1900 by William E. Brice, the town was largely settled by Czech immigrants. Clutier is still known for its Czech cuisine and summertime polka concerts as well as its annual Bohemian Plum Festival.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

Clutier Public School was built in 1925 and in 1961, merged with Traer School to become Traer-Clutier. The consolidation of local school districts continued, and in 1965 Dinsdale Community School joined, forming North Tama County Community School District.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

It was remarkably difficult to find much information on the history of the school, probably because of the large number of small-town schools in Iowa that closed due to consolidation.

After a lot of digging, I managed to find out that Clutier Public School had a very talented young women's basketball team called The Chargin' Czechs. From 1939 to 1948, they achieved a 201-18-1 record and took part in the state tournament six times.

1942 was an exceptional year for the Chargin' Czechs. They were undefeated, winning 31 games and the Iowa Title. Clutier's Betty Mundt was the state tournament’s top scorer that year, with 75 points in four games.

Photo from the Cedar Rapids Gazette in 1942 of the Clutier girls’ basketball state championship team
(courtesy of 
http://www.thegazette.com/subject/sports/girls-state-basketball-memories-from-newhall-to-clutier-20160214)

The team's memory still lives on. In 2007, the mayor of Clutier proclaimed September 15 as Chargin’ Czech Day and a monument was built in their honor at the town entrance. The Iowa Hall of Pride in Des Moines has dedicated part of its "Six-Girl Basketball in Iowa" display to the 1942 team, including a team photo, the championship trophy, a team uniform, and the white basketball that was used during their time.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

The classrooms of the old school are now water-damaged, but surprisingly still intact, a stark contrast to Searsboro Consolidated School, which is in far worse shape.

Despite the lack of graffiti, smashed windows are a sign that Clutier Public School has not been entirely spared from vandalism.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

Attempts were made to cover some of the broken windows, but the effort was apparently abandoned some time ago.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

A bed of moss now covers the carpeted floors of the old classrooms.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

Small plants grow up from the mushy layer of decaying carpet.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

Rotting doors hang loosely from decaying frames. The drywall has fallen off in chunks, revealing sturdy brick walls.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

Light fixtures still hang in a few rooms where ceiling tiles have not yet come loose.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

A staircase stained from decades of flooding leads down to a spooky cafeteria.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

The tiles have peeled up from the floor, forming a layer of brittle, curled rectangles.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

The kitchen is bare, except for a stainless steel sink leaning against the wall.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

By the time I finished admiring the old school the sky had grown pitch dark, but there was still one more school I wanted to check out before embarking on the long drive into Illinois.

A few miles from Clutier lies the town of Dysart, home of the abandoned Dysart-Geneseo Consolidated School. I knew the property was off limits, but I wanted to capture a few shots of the school from afar, if possible.

I parked along the side of the road and could barely make out the old structure in the near-total darkness. I got out my tripod to experiment with some long-exposure photography. I managed to get a decent shot of the school and teachers' dormitory. The pictures turned out a little blurry, but were shockingly bright as if I'd taken them in the middle of the day.

Abandoned Dysart-Geneseo Consolidated School in Iowa

While I stood there with my tripod, a truck drove by, slowing slightly as it passed me, and then pulled into the driveway of the only nearby house. Just as I was getting ready to leave, two cop cars showed up, blinding me with their lights. The police told me someone had reported suspicious activity. It was obvious who had made the call, since only one vehicle had passed during the short time I was there.

I showed the cops the pictures I had taken, to prove that I hadn't trespassed onto the property. They were as amazed as I was at how the photos had turned out. Realizing I'd done nothing illegal, the officers were pretty friendly. I was disappointed that the neighbors had called the police instead of simply stopping to ask what I was up to. I guess that's the sort of mistrustful world we live in, even in small-town America.

Abandoned Dysart-Geneseo Consolidated School in Iowa

I got back on the road and drove for several hours, crossing into Illinois before I stopped to rest for the night. The Rust Belt was just over the horizon and I could hardly wait for the dawn of a new day filled with new places to explore...

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Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa


13 comments :

  1. Great story Jim. I love exploring myself, and since I'm in Canada and out of reach to these areas,its nice to be able to explore through your stories and pictures ( although it's so much better being there!! ;))Thanks again, and keep up the awesome work!

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    1. Thank you! I'm glad you're enjoying my stories. Have you found many interesting abandoned places to explore in Canada?

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  2. Interesting seeing the pictures of the interior of the school where I attended. I grew up in Clutier and attended this school. The school did not close in 1961. I wasn't born until 1962 and attended this school through 6th grade. In 1974, it became the consolidated Jr. High School for Clutier, Traer, and Dinsdale and I attended here until starting high school in 1976. I graduated from high school in 1980 and it was still operating as a school then. Not sure when it actually closed but it was certainly not 1961.

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    1. Thanks so much for the info. It's difficult to find reliable information. The news article about the basketball team was one of the few sources I could find.

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    2. Your welcome. I'm glad I could provide a little more information for you.

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  3. We used to go to Jr. High in that building. 1978-80. It was still open when I graduated in 84. Not sure when it was closed.

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  4. The Clutier building closed sometime in the mid-80's. The North Tama district used the building as a Jr. High and elementary until that time. Now North Tama is operating from one campus in Traer.

    The Geneseo building you referred to was the "Geneseo Consolidated School." It served grades K-12 until 1966, when it merged with Dysart to become part of "Dysart-Geneseo Community Schools." The building served as an elementary and Jr. High and was closed in the early 80's. The building that you refer to as the administration building was actually a teacher dormitory.

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  5. This has brought back MANY memories of being in the Clutier school. I went to kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades there. I was in a class of 14 kids. I then finished my elementary years in Traer when the schools consolidated. I went back for my junior high years, 7th and 8th grades. The long steel building with the 2 yellowish doors was an addition built on. The right door had a painting of Garfield the cat, which our art teacher painted. This door led to the art/industrial arts room. The door on the left was the entrance to the band room. I would have loved to have seen pictures of the rooms and library upstairs and the gym. I was fortunate to be able to win the bid at an auction and own the scoreboard that was in the gym. One of my classmate's dad used to own the school and used the gymnasium as a place to store his prized tractors. I graduated from North Tama in 1987. I cannot say for sure when the school was closed either. I vaguely remember the junior high kids coming to Traer when I was in high school, so mid eighties is a good guess as to when it shut down. Again, the memories stirred up from this is fun. Learning to tie my shoe with a wooden shoe along with my address and phone number in kindergarten to going down those "creepy" stairs to go to lunch to going back and making it through those awkward years of 7th and 8th grades. Thank you!

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    1. I'm glad this article stirred up so many memories for you. Thank you for sharing them!

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  6. The Clutier school closed at the end of the 85-86 school year. I was in the last 8th grade class that went there. Brings back a lot of good memories and even recognized which class rooms that were photographed.

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  7. Graduating in 1979 from NT I went to Jr high in Dinsdale for 7th grade and then to Clutier for 8th grade.

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  8. This school was here long before the 60's my husband's family is from this town and many went to school here.

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