High School Building Centennial
October 21, 2017 - Open House

“The results of our investigations are embodied in the plan for our building and if they are all carried out as planned, this district will have a building as good as the best in this state and one that will be so substantially constructed, that it would require no repairs for at least 25 years and one that should be good for 100 years or more and which everyone will be proud to have when completed.”
John R. Clisby - Board of Education Secretary 1916

Arcola High School opened its doors in September 1917. To commemorate the milestone, the public will be welcomed at an open house of the high school building on October 21, 2017 from 12:00 noon to 3:00 PM. The celebration will include a display of historic memorabilia from 100 years; building tours; interviews with Arcola alumni; entertainment; refreshments; and presentations on how today’s classrooms look different than they did in the past.

Construction History

Headlines in the March 4, 1915 Arcola Record-Herald announced, “Township High School Election Next Week”, noting the crowded conditions in our schools demand that something be done. Voters would go to the polls several times in the coming months to determine the future of Arcola High School. The following information has been compiled from Arcola Record-Herald newspapers beginning March 4, 1915, at the time of the upcoming election to form a township high school district, and concluding 2 ½ years later with the news of opening days in the new Arcola Township High School building, as reported in the Arcola Record-Herald of September 13, 1917.

March 4, 1915: Voters will have opportunity to vote for or against establishment of a township high school on Wednesday, March 10th. Women are not permitted to vote on this question according to Attorney General P.J. Lucey. The proposed district is almost 8 square miles and comprises 6 sections or 38,400 acres of land, and has Arcola for the logical center. It will be seen that the district is large enough so that taxes will be extremely low, and if located in Arcola, will be easily accessible from all parts of the district. Arcola High School is now operating in very crowded quarters, the East Side building having been erected in 1875 – 40 years ago. There are at present enrolled in the high school 120 students, 52 of whom are tuition pupils from neighboring country school districts. The admission of these country school students added so to the number of scholars that at present time it is impossible to get them all into any room for general exercises. The work is therefore carried on under difficulties, which will be increased as more pupils are admitted, unless more commodious quarters are provided.

Under a state law passed and approved June 26, 1913, all county districts must pay high school tuition of pupils who finish 8th grade work in country schools if those pupils elect to attend high school. This is the law that has so greatly increased the attendance of Arcola High School until present conditions are scarcely tolerable. The Arcola Board of Education charges tuition pupils $2.50 per month. Our school term is 8 ½ months, so tuition pupils therefore pay $21.50 per year.

The needs of a bigger and better high school have long been apparent and while the matter has been commented upon in a favorable way, for several years, no one seemed to care to take the lead in the matter until the latter part of last week when it was felt now is the opportune time to consider the proposition and a few of the businessmen decided to take the initiative in the matter. Petitions were circulated on the street Saturday and presented to every legal voter who was met in an hour’s time and 72 signatures were received asking that the question be submitted to a vote. The petition was filed with County Superintendent of Schools E.E. Gere that same afternoon and he called for election on March 10th. While 10 notices are required to be posted, 15 were posted throughout the district the same afternoon.

March 4, 1915 : Some Benefits of a Township School: A township high school creates a larger district unit and gives all children of high school age the privilege of attending the high school without paying tuition. By enlarging the district, it accommodates itself to those pupils who are really entitled to a high school education and distributes the benefits over a larger area than under the old district plan. Under the new high school tuition laws, it is a hardship on the district to keep up the tuition expense, but under township high school organization, every pupil in the country is entitled to the same privilege free that his more favored city cousin now enjoys. The expense of a high school education is less per capita for the taxpayer under the township high school than under the old district plan. The best courses in manual training and agriculture may be offered to all high school students because of the extra advantages of equipment and teaching under the township high school. It would become the common people’s college for all young people who might not see an opportunity or have the means to take a college course away from home.

March 11, 1915: The results of Tuesday’s election revealed 388 voters chose to establish Arcola Township High School, with 172 opposing. A total of 369 townspeople and nearly 200 farmers voted, with about one third of farmers favoring the new township high school. After the returns are certified, the county superintendent of schools will call an election for selecting members of the board of education, consisting of the president and six members made up of town and country members. “The general sentiment is to build a building up to date in every manner and commodious enough to serve the needs of the community for many years to come . . . Let’s all be together now and make it OUR SCHOOL.”

March 25, 1915: County Superintendent of Schools, E.E. Gere of Tuscola, posted notice for the annual election of a township high school board of education on Wednesday, April 7th at Dimond Brothers office. “The sentiment of the community we believe is to build well (neither stingily nor extravagantly).” The Record-Herald took the matter of women voting at this election up with the Attorney General of Illinois, as well as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and they report that women will be authorized to vote for members of the board and also on the questions of the site and bond issue.

April 1, 1915: Polls will be open 1:00-5:00 p.m. at Dimond Brothers for the April 7th election. Names on the ballot for the board of education are: For president: J.J. Armstrong; 3-year term (elect 2): Wm. Skinner, A. Schneider and J.C. Jones; 2-year term (elect 2): J.R. Black, Walter Reinheimer and John I. Hall; 1-year term (elect 2): Geo. H. Ewald, Lester Hemingway and John R. Clisby. Scarcely any of the above are really anxious for the places and several names were placed on the ballot after the gentlemen had protested that they did not want to serve as they know the work will require a vast amount of attention during the first year or so until the building is completed. Women will be privileged to vote at this election.

April 22, 1915: Newly elected school board members Armstrong, Skinner, Black, Hall, Hemingway and Clisby visited high schools in Champaign, Gibson City and Farmer City. J.C. Jones was detained at home. Board members were accompanied by Prof. Allen and Mr. Spencer (Champaign architect who designed the schools). Spencer noted building materials are lower right now than in several years and considers this an opportune time to build.

April 29, 1915: Arcola school district as formed is unusually large, embracing 60 sections, so that a $60,000.00 levy could doubtless be made here and the levy kept around the dollar mark or below it. At present there are 72 township high schools in Illinois and the rate of taxation runs from 35 cents to $4.00, but almost all of the buildings were erected on a rate of 90 cents to $1.50.

June 10, 1915: Voters will determine the site of the new school building next Saturday at Dimond Brothers office. If none of the sites submitted wins a majority of votes cast, then the board of education will select the site. Women will be permitted to vote at this election. The four options are:

West Washington St.: about 19 acres owned by Ford Righter and J. Kin Hall (Arcola) and Mesdames Miller and Heeb of Charleston for $7,000.00.
North Locust St.: about 23 acres owned by McCafferty heirs just north of Vandalia Railroad for $7,500.00, will also sell smaller portion of plot.
North Locust St.: about 19 acres owned by Elmer Clodfelter’s at north edge of the McCafferty strip but still within city limits for $6,750.00.
East Main St.: about 14 acres at east end of Main St. owned by Homer Stump for $5,000.00.

June 17, 1915: Board will select site for school house because none of options received a majority of the vote. The West Washington St. site received the most votes 262 of 641 votes cast. A second proposal was also submitted to voters in this election. Even though the district was already established in a previous election, the board required an affirmative vote before proceeding with the building of a school house. A total of 531 votes were cast with only 47 opposing the building.

June 24, 1915: School board will ask for a $75,000.00 bond issue for the new township high school at the upcoming July 6th election. If the people vote the issue, bonds will be made for a long term, probably 20 years, the first payment to be made 5 years hence, and the bonds to mature $5,000.00 per year thereafter until the $75,000.00 is paid. The board has gone into this matter quite carefully and give it as their opinion that the full $75,000.00 is needed to build the sort of school Arcola will want, and that the amount of the taxable property is sufficiently large so that the burden of the taxation will be very light, and when distributed over a long period of years will not be hard on anyone. They have visited quite a good many township high schools during the past few weeks and found that in a number of instances the officials of those schools have told them that they built too small at the start and added rooms have been an expensive proposition. The Arcola board is anxious for a bond issue of sufficient size for a building that shall last for the coming generation. Board members are President J.J. Armstrong, Secretary John R. Clisby, J. Will Skinner, J.C. Jones, Lester Hemingway, John I. Hall and J. Roy Black.

July 22, 1915: Election is set for July 29th in which 5 country districts want to join the Arcola Township High School district. The call for the election to vote bonds for the new high school was recently withdrawn as some adjoining districts expressed a desire to be taken into the Arcola district. Directors of Galton, Chesterville, Bagdad, Columbia and Antioch schools have unanimously petitioned for admission. The addition of the 5 districts will add 19 more sections to the 60 sections secured in the original organization. This would give 79 sections and probably the biggest township high school district in the state so that the taxes will be proportionally low for building and maintenance. Only male voters will be permitted on this proposition, which is a constitutional one, but at all subsequent elections the women will be allowed equal suffrage.

August 5, 1915: Last Thursday Columbia, Chesterville, Bagdad and Antioch country districts almost unanimously voted to join the Arcola Township High School district. Galton voted the proposition down. This adds 16 sections, now totally 76, which is the largest high school district in Illinois. The other country districts are endeavoring to get the proposition to a vote and if the proposition carries, several more sections, probably 8, will be added. If they come in before October, the tax levy can be extended to allow them to pay their proportionate share of the bonds for the building. The bond election for the site and building purposes will be held August 17, 1915. The board is asking for a $75,000.00 bond issue and as the assessed value of the taxable property in the district is over 2 million, tax rate will be low. If by any chance it should be voted down, the board of education has the power to make a direct levy of $1.50 per $100.00 valuation and can in this manner raise the funds in 2 or 3 years and could go right ahead with the building enterprise. However, the bonds are arranged so that payment will mature only $5,000.00 per year. According to present arrangements, the first bond will be due August 10, 1921, and each subsequent year $5,000.00 bonds will mature, the last being paid in August 1935. Bonds will bear interest at 5%.

August 5, 1915: A total of nine architects from Decatur, Danville, Champaign, Bloomington, Urbana, Chicago, Terre Haute and Vincennes, Indiana, were each given up to an hour to explain their building plans for the new school and talk over suggested changes at the recent school board meeting, which lasted until 11:30 that night. The plans run from $58,000.00 to $75,000.00 and all call for fire proof construction.

August 12, 1915: A $66,000.00 school building, designed by Joe W. Royer of Urbana, has been selected. Royer has done other work in this locality. He is the architect of the Douglas County Court House and Arcola home of A. Schneider and the Mel Crews home at the corner of Pine and Jefferson Sts. The $66,000.00 does not include furniture or the building site. The Record-Herald prints the architect’s drawing of the proposed new school with Gothic Style of architecture, which is without a doubt the most dignified and appropriate style for buildings of this character. Quiet dignity and good construction can be more readily obtained in this style at a much more moderate expenditure than other styles of architecture. The building will be 160 feet X 96 feet in extreme dimensions with the broad facade facing the south, providing the proper exposure for the principal rooms. The building will be set well out of the ground. The necessary grading will be effected by means of a terrace extending around the entire structure. The exterior will be constructed of dark vitreous brick with terra cotta or stone trimmings around windows, entrances, turrets, etc.

The building will have three entrances, one center or main front, and one on each end. The main entrance will be the largest and most ornamental, it being the principal point of interest of the entire building. Access to the main entrance will be by means of a broad flight of stairs. The main entrance at the front leads directly to the main or first floor, while the end entrances lead to the lower or ground floor.

The ground floor plans include the Domestic Science, Manual Training, Agriculture and Athletic departments. The Domestic Science department is located in the southwest part, consisting of dining room, cooking room and sewing room. The cafeteria or general lunch room is located in adjoining space and near the center of the building. The Agriculture room is located in the southeast corner. The gymnasium, locker rooms and shower rooms occupy the entire north portion of the ground floor. The gymnasium is 45 X 75 feet and has two balconies for spectators. The locker and shower rooms are located at opposite ends of the gymnasium. Boiler and fuel rooms are located on the ground floor level and are in a semi-detached building.

The administrative offices, biological labs, library, three classrooms, an emergency room, a room for teachers and toilet rooms for both sexes are located on the first floor. An auditorium or study room is also on the first floor. The superintendent’s office contains a public office, private office, store room, toilet room and a vault. The biological lab, located in the southeast corner, is provided with a growing bay. The toilet rooms are of easy access, well lighted and well ventilated. The auditorium occupies the north part of the building and is equipped with a large stage and dressing room. Seating capacity is 408, part in school desks and part in opera chairs.

The second floor houses the commercial department, chemistry lab, physics lab, lecture rooms and teachers’ toilets. The labs occupy the center of the south front of this story, with lecture rooms between. The commercial rooms are separated by glass partitions.

The building will have fireproof floors and partitions throughout. All corridors will have floors of terrazzo or tile. All woodwork is to be the best oak. All plumbing and heating fixtures are to be of best quality and in harmony with other portions of the building.

August 19, 1915: The August 17th $75,000.00 bond issue carried with a whoop by a vote of 206-18, but the board cannot agree on a site for the school house. “So you can see we have a school house, but we hain’t got no place to put it.” Because none of the four proposed building sites received a majority of the vote in the June election, the school board must select the site. The board wrestled with the site problem for 3 hours, but was unable to come to agreement. A special election will be held on August 30th to determine the site. The prices for the four options for building sites range from $336.00 to $460.00 per acre.

August 19, 1915: School will open on August 30, 1915. The township high school will rent the entire upper floor of the east side building until the new building is completed, hopefully ready for occupancy by the fall of 1916.

August 26, 1915: Two school sites are now offered in a special election to be held September 8, 1915. Options on the Stump and Clodfelter land expired September 1st and owners refused to renew their offers, so the options are narrowed down to the McCafferty land on North Locust St., north of the Vandalia depot, or the Miller-Hall-Righter land in the southwest part of the city.

September 2, 1915: Big Election to be held next Wednesday with vote divided by Illinois Central Railroad tracks. East and west sides will work for school house. Women to have vote.

September 9, 1915: Headlines reported, “West Siders Licked Us 792-709 Votes”. There was joy on the west side last night. A bunch of the most enthusiastic made an automobile parade through the streets and later built a bonfire and held a genuine ratification meeting.

October 21, 1915: School bonds sell at a premium as Thomas Lyons buys $75,000.00 worth of school paper for $78,316.00. School district will get $78,316.00 as well as accrued interest for the $75,000.00 worth of bonds. Ten sealed bids were opened by the board in the office of Secretary Clisby. Several large bond houses of the country made bids. The First National Bank of Arcola bid $77,000.00.

November 18, 1915: The floor plan and building description for the new high school is published in the Arcola Record-Herald. School contract is let for $109,695.00. Herbert B. Krauel of Danville is awarded the general contract for $89,395.00 Tuesday afternoon, beating out 10 other contractors. W.T. Dillenhunty & Company of Decatur gets the heating, plumbing, sewerage and ventilating contract for $20,300.00. With the additional cost of the site, furnishings, equipment for building and general expenses, total expenses are expected to run fully $140,000.00.

The people recently voted a $75,000.00 bond issue for building purposes and the board made a direct tax levy of $25,000.00 for building purposes. Another tax levy will be necessary another year hence and probably for 2 years in order to complete and equip the building as planned. The building is very fine throughout. It is also very substantial, being practically fire proof. Board members have spent a good deal of time the past summer visiting school plants and getting all information possible and believe the plan adopted offers the people of the district the best value for the money. They state they could have built a building of the dimensions of this one, at a great deal less money, but it would have been a building cheap in construction and cheap in appearance and within 5 years repairs would begin to be needed. The board wants to build a school so substantial that it will stand without any repairs for many years to come and the building will certainly be one of the finest in the state.

December 9, 1915: School board buys more land. An acre tract of land owned by Mrs. Mary Adeling of Atwood is purchased for the township high school. The land is located just south of the land owned by Mrs. August Knoop, which the board also desires to purchase so the new school building façade may have an east front. The board has started condemnation proceedings to acquire the Knoop and Sieh properties and a hearing is set for December 20, 1915. If agreement or a compromise can be reached so the board is assured of the frontage they desire, excavation work will begin right away.

February 3, 1916: A petition is now circulating asking the board to scale down the proposed building so it can be erected with the $75,000.00 bond money which the people voted last September. There is no objection to the bonds, but over a direct tax levy of $40,000.00 for this year, which was made to take care of teaching and current expenses and raise a portion of money needed for the building and site.

March 23, 1916: Herbert B. Krauel, general contractor, was in the city this week and getting excavation for the building started. He has purchased all materials for the project and expects to have a portion of the building ready for occupancy by January 1, 1917, if he is able to secure prompt shipment of all materials needed. Over 200,000 bricks are already on the ground.

April 6, 1916: Community leader G. S. Tarbox’s platform for his high school board candidacy is published front page right columns of Arcola Record-Herald. “I voted for the bond issue of $75,000.00, but certainly did not favor expending of at least $150,000.00 or more . . . I have been free to criticize the reckless expenditures of the present board for building and additional grounds as now planned, and they have contracted for something which I do think is far beyond any possible needs for the next 25 years, if ever needed, and believe that the maintenance of same will be an unnecessary burden on the taxpayers for years to come.”

April 6, 1916: The Board of Education of Arcola Township High School Dist. #151 has been requested to make a statement of facts concerning their work so that the voters may be reliably informed. Board Secretary John R. Clisby’s statement regarding the new township high school building is published on the front page left columns of Arcola Record-Herald. He desires to make his statement of facts as so many erroneous statements have been circulated by those opposed to the board’s work. The errors should be corrected before the upcoming vote on the school board is made. He explains the board’s spending decisions and states the board put in much time last year investigating the needs of a building and made several trips to inspect other buildings. “The results of our investigations are embodied in the plan for our building and if they are all carried out as planned, this district will have a building as good as the best in this state and one that will be so substantially constructed, that it would require no repairs for at least 25 years and one that should be good for 100 years or more and which everyone will be proud to have when completed. We can assure you that you will get value received for every dollar that this board has expended.”

April 13, 1916: Armstrong, Clisby and Hemingway are re-elected to school board by big majorities. Nearly 900 votes were cast last Saturday. Old members were re-elected by very substantial majorities thus scoring a decisive victory for the plan of an exceptionally good building contracted by the old board.

April 27, 1916: A number of Humboldt township landowners, whose property is a part of the Arcola Township High School district, have instituted court proceedings in hopes of blocking the school. Much of the material for the building is already on the ground, the excavating has been made and the workmen are now pouring the concrete footings. The brick masons are also at work and the northeast part of the building is beginning to assume proportions.

June 22, 1916: Work on the Arcola Township High School building is progressing rapidly and in a highly satisfactory manner. The walls of the engine room are now completed and the walls of the main building are up above the grade line. Ten brick masons are now at work, as well as a big force of carpenters, plumbers and helpers. The building is to be completed next January.

March 1, 1917: The exterior of the high school is practically completed and the plasterers are busy putting on the first coat. About half of the building has been plastered and the force of workmen has been increased this week so that it can be completed more rapidly. Brick masons have not quite finished the interior brick work. Many of the rooms are now ready for the second coat of plaster and contractors expect to have the building ready to turn over to the board in May. The building would have been completed before this had the contractors been able to secure materials as needed.

March 22, 1917: The building is rapidly nearing completion and plasterers are putting on finishing coat, but the building will not be ready for use any part of the present school year. It is thought everything will be ready for use the opening day of the fall term.

May 24, 1917: This is the last class to graduate from the old building as the township high school building will be ready for occupancy at the beginning of the fall term.

August 16, 1917: School opening dates are announced. Grade school will open September 3, 1917, and the new high school building will open on September 10, 1917. The main floor of the high school building will be ready for occupancy by September 10th, several classrooms and the auditorium are practically complete at this date. The gymnasium and other rooms of the basement floor and the classrooms of the second floor will be completed while school is in session.

August 30, 1917: The seats of the main floor arrived this week and the entire floor is now in readiness with the exception of the installation of the toilet facilities.

September 6, 1917: New Arcola Township High School building is pictured.

September 13, 1917: Nine classrooms and assembly room are now complete, but seats for assembly room are not yet here and chairs were borrowed from churches for temporary use. None of the teachers’ desks are here. Though somewhat handicapped by some incomplete classrooms, lack of furnishings, the hammering and pounding of carpenters and a spaghetti dialect of the workmen putting in the terrazzo floors, the first term of the Arcola Township High School opened in the building on the west side last Monday morning.

(Compiled by Sue Stout; Published October 19, 2017 Arcola Record-Herald)

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Last Revision March 22, 2023