Wilder Elementary School, one of the city's first grade schools, opened in 1891. The first school was constructed on the far north edge of town where the playground now sits. The school was named after Mr. W.L. Wilder, a long-time school board member who came to Grand Forks in 1880 as a general agent for the St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company. Just three years after this building was built, it was destroyed by a fire on November 4th, 1894. The school, acknowledged as one of the finest school buildings in the Northwest, was lost. Two days after the fire, the school board made a decision to rebuild the school at once!
In the fall of 1895, students attended classes in a new 10 room school only a few feet away from the site of the original building. This new building in 1955 was constructed for a more comprehensive physical education program. The gym, at a cost of $48,811, was first used shortly after January 1956. The boiler room was added a short time later at a cost of $55,218. In the fall of 1964 construction of a new Wilder Elementary School was underway. The building was built adjacent to the gym and consisted of eight classrooms, a lunchroom, a library, and a multi-purpose room. Total cost for this project was $235,767. The old Wilder School was torn down, however the present building continues to use the old address of "North 3rd Street."
On April 18th, 1997, Wilder Elementary School was inundated with flood waters from the Red River. The school year was terminated on April 19th for all Grand Forks Public Schools. With severe damage from floor to ceiling, the building was gutted and redesigned to meet even more contemporary needs of Head Start through 6th grade students during the 1997-1998 school year. During that year, Wilder Elementary School set up campus in FEMA trailers on the football field at Valley Middle School while the building was refurnished, thanks to the support of the Grand Forks School Board and Wilder Elementary School neighborhood. During the school's redesign, the library media center was expanded and staff office space was added. This eliminated the former cafeteria. The gym now serves a dual role as a cafeteria, physical education classroom, and performing arts area. The kitchen has replaced the former "stage."
The school was reopened during the fall of 1998 after approximately $2 million dollars was spent on this endeavor. With 6th grade students moving to Valley Middle School, Wilder added a section of Head Start and now is considered a Pre-K/grade school.
Wilder was selected as a North Dakota Blue Ribbon Elementary School and a National Blue Ribbon Elementary School during the 2000-2001 school year. Because of these two honorable distinctions, Wilder can no longer be called "The Best Kept Secret" in Grand Forks!