Only memories remain ...
Arlington Village President Dick Koch watches closely as the former Arlington school is demolished
Monday morning. The floors had rotted in the old building, and the double-bricked exterior walls were not insulated, making
the building expensive to heat. A playground and shelter will be constructed on the site. (BCR photo/Barb Kromphardt)
ARLINGTON — The former Arlington School building will become the latest Bureau County school building to sink
back into the dust as it is demolished this week.
Workers from Boehm Brothers of Peru began the two-week project late last week, and most of the main building came down
“I feel relieved,” said Village President Dick Koch, who watched from the sidelines.
Koch said it has been a challenge to keep the windows boarded up and trespassers out since the village bought the school
from the LaMoille School District for $1 in 2003.
Koch said there had been no heat in the building for years, and the inside was dangerous with its rotten and sagging
Also paying close attention to the demolition is Lynne Bonnell, who along with her father, Laurence (Nuco) Fonderoli
and her three children all attended the school.
Bonnell said she was saddened with the school being demolished, and her family had many fond memories of the school.
She said her father started school there in 1934 at a time when there were nuns as teachers, and her children attended Arlington
Grade School while it was consolidated with the LaMoille School District. Bonnell, herself, attended from 1954-1962 before
graduating with her class of 13 students.
“Blanche Mahar was my first- and second-grade teacher; Arlene Stielow taught third and fourth grade; Lester Lindenmier
taught fifth and sixth grade; and Nellie Hubbard taught seventh and eighth grade and was the school principal,” she
said. “I especially enjoyed the first- and second-grade room as it had a small stage where we had school plays.”
Bonnell said the school’s time had come.
“Though I am saddened by it being demolished, it is only a shell of it being a school with happy, laughing children
in attendance for 79 years,” she said. “I am glad it will be replaced by a shelter and a new playground.”
On Monday, Koch said a 40-foot-by-40-foot playground will be constructed on the site, thanks to $15,000 from KaBOOM!,
a national non-profit organization, and $9,000 raised by the village in a number of fundraisers. Construction is set for Aug.
11, and Koch said 35 to 40 volunteers should be involved.
In addition to the playground and shelter, Koch said trees will be planted around the area for all of Arlington’s
mayors. There will also be a memorial constructed out of salvaged bricks from the school for all the teachers who taught there.
Koch said all of the work on the site, from the asbestos abatement and demolition to the final landscaping and seeding
will be paid for with a $75,000 infrastructure grant the village received from the state. Koch said the village has received
one-fourth of the money and will get the rest when the work is completed.
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The history of Arlington School
On April 11, 1867, the Arlington School Board purchased the entire Block 16 in Gilson’s Addition in the southeast
section of the town for $610. A new frame building was built on the property at a cost of $14,800. Attendance ranged from
125 to 150 pupils due to the population expansion of the village to approximately 600 people.
In 1903, the school board,
in consultation with Fr. John W. Cummings, pastor of St. Patrick Church, obtained the services of the Sisters of St. Benedict,
Nauvoo, Ill., as teachers. When school opened for the fall term, Sisters Aloysius, Lucille, Veronica and Raphaella arrived
to staff the Arlington Public School’s four classrooms. From 1922 through 1925, a three-year high school program
was offered in the school.
In August 1920, the frame school building was burned to the ground. It was replaced
by a modern, 14,604-square-foot, two-story building of brick construction. While the new school was under construction, Spaulding
and community halls were used as classrooms. In January 1922, the new building was ready for occupancy.
By the 1935-36
school year, regular instruction in religion had begun. The instruction was held every Tuesday and Thursday morning from 9
to 9:45 a.m. The Rev. Merle Robeson took charge of the Protestant children and Fr. W. J. Scollin took charge of the Catholic
children. The classroom teachers were Sisters Imelda, Loyola, Louise and Scholastica. The Sisters of St. Benedict continued
to serve the community until 1954.
In 1959, the school was remodeled. A gymnasium with locker rooms and a kitchen
were added in 1963. In the spring of 1971, Arlington Grade School District No. 88 consolidated with the LaMoille and Van Orin
school districts to form LaMoille Community Unit District No. 303. The Arlington school was used as a lower elementary grade
school until April 6, 2001, when the building was closed. On May 19, 2003, the LaMoille Community Unit School District voted
to sell the Arlington School building and adjoining property to the village of Arlington for $1.