As a kid I could sense impending doom this time of year. Like stones slowly piling atop of me, my breathing would be sporadic and strained, knowing the end is near. Yup, summer vacation was beyond the half-way point and it was soon time to return to school.
School wasn't that bad, it was just the long journey from year to year. It was nice to see friends you haven't seen in three months; trading backyard adventure stories and vacation sagas. But soon the "new school smell" evaporates and the friend you missed over summer turns out to be the same jerk he was in May; back to the grindstone with homework, times tables and no air conditioning. No wonder I ran home to catch Captain Jinks and Gilligan's Island, I needed a break from this kiddie reality frenzy!
Everyone has had similar back to school anxiety, weather an A+ student or just a grifter in the system. Visiting these closed Peoria schools it really brings one back to times of 75-100 years ago. Many of these are mammoth structures, with stone facing and school names etched in contrasting stone. As a kid in the 20's these must of been intimidating stoic structures of no nonsense.
Driving through the area from Kumpf Blvd to MacArthur the area has greatly gentrified but there must have been maybe a 1000 homes demolished in the past 40 years, thus closed or demolished schools. Heading further south to the other side of Macarthur then past Western and further down Laramie to the very tip of the southend, there is still many 100 year old residences packed together, not much different than originally built.
These houses were built the same era as mansions on Grand View Drive, Moss Avenue and High Street; the class disparity was just a couple blocks up the bluff looking down on you. Houses below the bluff are small lots and two stories, while the elite homes are set on an acre or two with multi-floors and numerous rooms. Must have been an odd, kind of Big Brother feel. Now the people who live in McMansions are tucked away in tidy subdivisions, hidden from the commoners so they fortunately don't to look down on us from a bluff. Luckier for us, we don't have to see them at all!
Many of the schools have been demolished; Lee on Martin, Longfellow on Perry, the original Lincoln, Douglas about where the Cat tech center is today, original Glen Oak, Sipp on University. From what I can gather there were quite a few Catholic grade schools on the southend/downtown area; St. Joseph, St Boniface, St. Ann, St Mary's, Sacred Heart plus of course Spalding/Academy high school. Now the closest Catholic school to downtown is St Mark's near Bradley.
I tried to get as much information as possible but there were a lot of timeline holes and conflicting dates. The Catholic consolidations were a challenge to decipher.
There is one public school I missed that is still standing, McKinley on Hinton off of MacArthur. If anyone has any added info, memories or corrections just post on comments. The closed gas station piece from last month got a lot of feedback with readers filling in a lot of lost history. Thanks!
Harrison—located on Krause Street.
This was closed a couple years ago and replaced with new building across the street. The 1901 building was sold recently in public auction for just $10. I heard it's slowly being dismantled for scrap.
Washington—839 Moss Avenue.
Originally a grade school, this 1911 structure was converted to house the gifted student program for district 150 in the 60's. When that school was moved to the former Reservoir Grade School, near the Journal Star, this became the alternative school. It is now used for adult education.
St Bernard's—near the corner of Nebraska and New York on 512 E. Kansas.
This Catholic school closed in 2004. The building is now used as a community center.
White—Just a couple blocks off Knoxville near St. Francis Hospital on 304 East Illinois.
White was named after an early Peoria educator, the building was originally a teacher training school. This was converted to a grade school in 1879.
Irving —519 NE Glendale just below St. Francis Hospital.
Irving was built in 1898, closed in the winter of 2012. The third floor was used as a TB hospital in the 1920's.
Greeley—Bounded by Jefferson/Morgan/Madison/ and Evans streets.
This was last used as an alternative school. I think that it’s been consolidated into the former Woodruff High School. Greeley is not listed on the school listings for District 150.
Academy Of Our Lady—at the corner of Bryan and Madison.
The Academy closed in May 1989. This was the girl's Catholic high school which originally started in 1863, this building opened in 1870.
Spalding—On the corner of Madison Avenue and Jackson Street.
Opened in 1901 the boys Catholic high school shared the campus with Academy of Our Lady, both closed in 1989. Named after the brother of Peoria Catholic founder, Bishop John Spalding. Noteworthy Fighting Irish alumni include Bishop Fulton Sheen, Gen. Wayne Downing, Ray LaHood, former Chicago Cub, now New York Yankees manager, Joe Girardi and MBIP Contributor, Mike “Fishlips” Foster.
Tyng—2212 W. Ann about two blocks off of Western and 2 blocks from Lincoln.
Tyng was built in 1915 becoming Peoria's 20th grade school. The school was named after Lucie Tyng, Peoria's first female school board member. It closed in 2009.
Blaine-Sumner—919 S. Matthew it's a couple blocks from the Western and Lincoln area.
Built in 1927 and closed 2006 it is currently the home of Thrive Capital Partners, a business innovator that develops or purchases companies.
Kingman— 3129 NE Madison, near War Memorial and Adams Street area.
It closed in 2009. Originally it was named Kingman High School until 1937 when Woodruff opened.
Kellar—Located on Mt. Hawley Road.
Kellar started as a one room school in 1911. In 1936 two rooms were added and in 1950 two additional classrooms were built. In 1954 four more rooms were added to the school. A new building was erected across splitting the school, thus Kellar East and Kellar Central. The original east school was closed in 2009 and the two schools consolidated.
Washington Grade School—Leadley Avenue in East Peoria.
Veering a bit out of Peoria, this is the former East Peoria Washington Grade School I attended in the 60's. About two blocks from the high school and next door to a small church, the school closed late 70s/early 80s and is now a pre-school.
On the corner of East Washington is currently a Double D's ice cream stand, in my day it was a Dairy Queen with McDonald's across the street and Mister Donut next door. I would like to thank the genius who thought of the concept who putting such havens of kiddie food porn so close to my grade school. I had a pretty overweight teacher in 4th grade who took us on weekly field trips to DQ in the spring. I think she did more for herself than us.
As a 1965 kindergartener I wore a Ringo Starr Halloween costume with official Beatles wig, only to my dismay no one knew who I was! In first grade my music teacher saw my disgust in doing another rousing rendition of "I'm a Little Teapot" so she asked what I thought the class should sing. I retorted: "Anything Beatles or Rolling Stones, like 'Satisfaction'." Happily for me I got sat in the corner that day and got out of singing the next sorry-ass tune" "B-I-N-G-O was his name-O."
Third grade I played a wiseman in the Christmas play, by then most of the teacher's probably thought wiseguy was better name. I also wrote and directed a school play about a giant spider attacking a city. I played the sheriff and won a little respect from peers. My years of reading Famous Monsters magazine and late night movies paid off!
I found my initial love in first grade, snuck a playground "first kiss" in 5th grade, nearly had the crap beat out of me by 6th grade hooligans after school, hit my first home run, made my first basket and actually learned my three r's and "school stuff" all at this spot.
When I moved to Peoria in 1975 students would ask were I went to grade school, of course I answered Washington, not realizing this is the "gifted school." Some couldn't remember me from there (since I didn't attend Peoria Washington) and some thought I was really smart. I may have been "special" but not "gifted" By my senior year I let kids just think I was that smart, since then I've had everyone fooled ever since!
St. Cecilia—Behind Peoria High School on the corner of Ellis and Richwoods.
The 1922 St Cecilia Catholic Grade School will be forever remembered for the 1973 hostage event that led to one of the suspects being gunned down in front of the building. I remember it was the lead story on world news that night. It closed in 1973 with very little national coverage.