The Cahill Settlement was one of the early communities in the western half of Richfield Township. It was established in the 1850s by Irish immigrants fleeing famine in their native Ireland.
During the years of 1846, 1847 and 1848, the entire potato crop failed in Ireland. An estimated 1.5 million people died of starvation during the famine years. The pioneer families of the Cahill Settlement were among the 750,000 Irish emigrants that came to the United States during this period.
The community found its focal point at the junction of Cahill Road and West 70th Street in southwest Edina. Three buildings were erected at this intersection — the Cahill School, St Patrick's Catholic Church, and the Cameron Store which also served as the post office. The community was named for Father Thomas Cahill, an early missionary priest in Minnesota.
On June 27, 1864, Hugh Darcy deeded two acres of land to the Directors of School District No. 16 for school purposes. The property was on the southeast corner of Cahill Road and West 70th Street. The selling price was $5.00. A wood frame schoolhouse was built on this site in 1864.
The Cahill School is typical of the classic one-room schoolhouse of 19th century, rural America. The building's form and proportions, as well as the symmetrical placement of doors and windows recall the Greek Revival style, which was in vogue in Minnesota in 1864.
Its plan is similar to one recommended by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Strict segregation of the sexes was observed with separate entrances for boys and girls.
Originally located at the center of the Cahill Settlement, this one-room schoolhouse was an important part of daily life in early Edina. During the school day, an average of 30 students in the first through eighth grades attended class. After school, the building served as a social center for the community, accommodating weddings, dances, theatricals, village elections and other community events.
Until 1884 the building was used as a chapel by St. Patrick's Catholic Church. The congregation had outgrown their first church, a log structure built in 1857 on the northwest corner of West 70th Street and Wooddale Avenue. From 1933 to 1938 Calvary Lutheran Church also held services at the school.
Built in 1864, the Cahill School was in continuous classroom use until 1958. In 1969 the building was acquired by the City of Edina and moved to its present site.
Restoration of the Cahill School was based on thorough historical and architectural research. The exterior of the school has been returned to its appearance in the early 1900s, with original paint colors, separate entrances for boys and girls, double hung windows, a wooden flag pole on the front, and a woodshed on the back.
Inside, the school has been restored with appropriate furnishings of the period — old-fashioned school desks, hand slates, a wood-burning stove, kerosene lamps, and turn-of-the-century McGuffey Readers.
Today, the Cahill School is a living history museum where school children of all ages can relive the experience of attending a one-room country school. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it is the oldest building in Edina.