One hundred years ago last month, Deerfield residents gathered to celebrate the laying of the cornerstone for a new school. The old wooden school had burned down the previous May, and the community wasted no time getting plans underway for its new "modern" school.
On June 13, voters met at the town hall to cast their votes on two propositions.
The first was "Shall Deerfield build a School House?" It passed with 63 voting in favor and 3 against.
The second was "Shall District 109 issue $10,400 in bonds?" It carried by a vote of 63-4. An article in the Highland Park Press noted that the town wondered which men had voted against building a new school when the existing one had been destroyed by fire. (Women did not have the right to vote at the time.)
During the election hours, several architects displayed plans for the new school, and those submitted by Mr. Gaddis of Vincennes, Ind., were accepted. His design was based on features compulsory in Ohio and Indiana, with windows on one side, no cross lights, the latest system of ventilation, and cloak rooms arranged for easy exit in case of fire. The new building was brick, another safety feature.
On July 12, bids were opened that ranged from $26,747 to $10,550 for the new school construction.
Frederick C. Noerenber of Highland Park, the low bidder, was accepted. T.H. Decker of Highland Park won the heating contract at $3,495. One significant improvement was the installation of Kaustine toilets to replace the old outhouses.
In May of 1914, a year after the fire, the new Deerfield Grammar School opened with six classrooms and an assembly hall. At first, only four classrooms were needed, so the other two rooms served as a school library and a lunchroom. During World War I, one room became the Red Cross room.
The Deerfield Grammar School PTA had been organized only a few years earlier, in 1910. Relief maps, organs, and other amenities bought by the PTA for the old school were destroyed in the fire.
Once the new school was ready, the PTA began to supply new enhancements: a piano, a victrola, a motion picture machine, three sets of encyclopedias, landscaping, flowers for the classroom, playground and gymnasium equipment, book binding materials, art supplies, two drinking fountains, and more.
Not only was the new school building itself a source of pride for the community, Deerfield Grammar School was equipped to provide its students with a variety of excellent educational opportunities.
Today the District 109 Administration Building stands on the site of the grammar school that was razed in 1970. The cornerstone inscribed with the names of J.A. Reichelt, School Board president; B.H. Kress, treasurer; and S.S. Love, clerk, is preserved inside the administration building.
By the late 1960s, Deerfield had eight public elementary schools. But probably no school opening matched the significance of that 1913 ceremony when Deerfield left its pioneer schools behind and embraced a modern future.
Information compiled from the 1928 History of Deerfield, Illinois, by Marie Ward Reichelt.
Donna-Marie Stupple is a board member of the Deerfield Area Historical Society.