Day School among ‘endangered historic places’
By Dave Gathman email@example.com April 24, 2012 8:46PM
The Neil Building is one of 10 structures on the campus of the former Fox River Country Day School in Elgin. The school closed in 2011 after 98 years due to financial strain. | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 26, 2012 8:13AM
SPRINGFIELD — Landmarks Illinois, a group dedicated to preserving historical architecture, on Tuesday named the shuttered Fox River Country Day School in Elgin as one of the “Ten Most Endangered Historic Places” in the state in 2012.
Now in its 18th year, this statewide list calls attention to threatened historical resources in need of assistance in the form of responsible stewardship and/or creative reuse plans. Jean Follett, interim executive director of the 2,500-member Landmarks Illinois, said the economic downturn, public deficits and a lack of available financing continue to challenge historical sites throughout Illinois.
“The sites named to the list are all exceptionally important,” Follett said. “By calling attention to them, we hope to encourage solutions for their preservation.”
The Fox River Country Day School, at 1600 Dundee Ave. (Route 25) on the city’s northeastern edge, was lauded by the group for its “country school”-style architecture, designed by John S. Van Bergen almost 90 years ago.
“In a picturesque setting near the Fox River, this beautiful wooded campus is an important natural landscape that contains several significant buildings by noted Prairie School architect John S. Van Bergen,” Landmarks Illinois wrote in a press release.
“The low-slung buildings, with their stucco, stone and tile details, fit organically into the landscape. Built in 1923 as the Chicago Junior School, the school closed its doors in 2011 due to declining enrollment and the property is currently in foreclosure and for sale.
“While its 53 acres present a prime development opportunity, the beauty and integrity of the school buildings are a rare extant example of the country school campus. The school deserves protection and careful planning for future reuse,” the organization said.
The now-vacant campus includes 10 buildings including a house, a dining hall, a gym and a pool. A large sign out front says “Bankruptcy Sale, 62 Acres,” with the names and phone numbers of two real-estate firms.
Most notable among those buildings is the school’s administration building, constructed in 1929 — one of several designed by Van Bergen, who was a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. The Neil Building, which housed the school’s assembly hall and classrooms for kindergarten through fifth grade, was constructed in the same Prairie style.
Some, including Elgin City Council member Anna Moeller, have suggested using the campus to start a charter school.
Also named this year were:
What the group referred to as “historic neighborhood schools” throughout the state, with specific schools mentioned in El Paso, Harrisburg, Jacksonville, Pekin and Springfield.
Blair House, 925 N. Sheridan Road, Lake Bluff.
Bresee Tower in Danville.
The 1854 limestone Bruch-Guertler House in Alton.
The 1899 Freeport City Hall.
The 1928 Hotel Guyon at 4000 W. Washington St., Chicago.
The Marbold Farmstead in Greenview.
The Maywood Home for Soldiers’ Widows, built in 1924 to house the widows of Civil War soldiers.
Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago.
Since the inception of Landmarks Illinois’ “Ten Most” list in 1995, more than a third of the listed properties have been saved, fewer than a quarter have been demolished, and the rest remain threatened or are being rehabilitated.
In addition to the Ten Most Endangered list, the organization sponsors an annual awards program, a heritage preservation grant program and a matching-grant program for county courthouses.
The complete list, including photos of this year’s 10 sites, is available at www.Landmarks.org through the “Press Room” link.