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Local Schoolhouse Makes List of Top Ten Most Endangered Historic Places

The McAuley Schoolhouse in West Chicago has made the annual Landmarks Illinois' list of the top ten most endangered historic places.

The McAuley Schoolhouse in West Chicago has made the annual Landmarks Illinois' list of the top ten most endangered historic places. 

The “Ten Most” list was announced by Landmarks Illinois at an April 1 press conference in Springfield. The purpose of the list is to focus attention on sites threatened by deterioration, lack of maintenance, insufficient funds, or inappropriate development. 

In choosing the McAuley Schoolhouse, which is located at 1820 W. Roosevelt Road in West Chicago, Landmarks Illinois writes: "The McAuley Schoolhouse was the last functioning one-room school in Illinois when it closed in 1992. The schoolhouse is a simple frame, one-story building built in 1913. It is located on land that was donated by homesteader George McAuley in 1857. A school operated continuously on this land for 135 years. McAuley School is now vacant and surrounded by farmland and a landscaping business."

The school closed in 1992 when West Chicago school districts 33 and 27 merged. And while West Chicago District 33 is currently responsible for the building, the facility "is in a state of disrepair with no plans for its future use or disposition," according to Landmarks Illinois. 

Other sites to make the 2014 most endangered historic places list include: Camp Algonquin in rural McHenry County, Central Manufacturing District in Chicago, the Halsted and Willow Gateway in Chicago and the Uptown Theatre in Chicago. 

The full text from Landmarks Illinois' decision to add the McAuley Schoolhouse to its Top Ten Most Endangered Historic Places list can be found below: 

The McAuley Schoolhouse was the last functioning one-room school in Illinois when it closed in 1992. The schoolhouse is a simple frame, one-story building built in 1913. It is located on land that was donated by homesteader George McAuley in 1857. A school operated continuously on this land for 135 years. McAuley School is now vacant and surrounded by farmland and a landscaping business.

The school was shuttered in 1992 when West Chicago School Districts 33 and 27 merged. West Chicago School District 33 is still responsible for the structure’s security. The building is presently in a state of disrepair with no plans for its future use or disposition. Its location on the edge of Roosevelt Road (Hwy 38) – a busy four lane highway – near Fabyan Road puts the school at risk as the area continues to see commercial development. Over the years there have been discussions about moving the schoolhouse into town, but there is question whether this is possible based on legal agreements from the school district merger and whether such a move would put the structure into public or private ownership. 

The level of community interest in saving the schoolhouse is high. Despite the District’s inability to provide financial support for a renovation project, the Board is hopeful that a proposal will emerge for its reuse. Throughout the local campaign to find a suitable reuse for the historic Wiant House (2013 Ten Most), there was much public comment about the future of the McAuley Schoolhouse. The schoolhouse served many generations of residents in West Chicago and DuPage County. People have fond childhood memories of their time at McAuley and want to share these experiences with their children, grandchildren and others. 

Because of its simplicity and sturdiness, the one-room schoolhouse is an excellent reuse candidate. There are examples that have been reused as museums, learning centers, community gathering places, offices and stores. Chicagoland examples include commercial reuse of the Yunker School in Orland Park and public and educational programming at two one-room schoolhouses owned by the McHenry County Historical Society.

What You Can Do

Anyone with interest in helping in this effort should join the Save McAuley Schoolhouse Facebook page.

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