REMEMBERING BLACKHAWK SCHOOL

During the early years of development in Schaumburg Township, it wasn’t just houses that were being built at a furious clip, it was schools too.   On April 3, 1958  F & S Construction–who was the developer of the early homes in Hoffman Estates–and the District 54 school board announced plans for the construction of the 5th and largest school yet in the elementary district.

The announcement was dramatic in that the school was desperately needed but also because the design was so unique.  Fridstein and Fitch, the architects commissioned by F & S, were instructed to design a 12 room school that conformed with the elongated, narrow property that ran along the east side of Illinois Blvd at Schaumburg Road. 

What they initially came up with was a double hexagonal design with 6 classrooms in each hexagon with doors leading to the outside.  The two hexagons were connected by a central area for office space, restrooms and a lobby.

More than 80 percent of the sides were glass and the roof had enough of an overhang so that classrooms did not receive direct sunlight.  Each hexagon had a folded roof with six gables and a clear story in the center to permit sunlight to enter the corridors and to provide ventilation for the individual heating units.

However, as plans progressed, a third hexagon was added to the rear that housed an all-purpose theater style auditorium for school assembly use.  It featured a large stage, dressing and washing rooms, floor space for school athletic and community activities.  According to Keith, one of our commenters below, the school did not have a cafeteria so many of the neighborhood children went home for lunch.  In addition, he also noted that the playground was covered with smooth pea-sized river rock.

By the end of construction, the outlay for F & S was $175,000.  And, since a new building needs a new principal, Octavio Candelara was hired for the job by District 54’s first superintendent, Robert Flum.  It should also be noted that Anne Fox who was later to have a school in Hanover Park named for her also spent some time teaching at Blackhawk.

In 1958 the community was already making good use of the building’s stage.  The Hoffman Estates Theater Guild held their first production “The Tender Trap” on December 5th and 6th and followed with showings of “Harvey” and “Sabrina Fair” in 1959.  In addition, the Hoffman Estates Baptist Church, a mission of the First Baptist Church of Palatine was holding services in the hallways in 1959.

Much beloved by the community and given awards for its innovative design, the school, nevertheless, closed in 1976 because of a decline in attendance.  In the fall of 1977, the school district vacated the building and the Schaumburg Township offices moved into the building from the Buttery on Roselle Road. The building was razed in November, 1996 after a new Township office was built on the same site.

What are your memories of Blackhawk School/Schaumburg Township offices?  It was certainly a unique building for its time and almost reminds me of a school you would see in Southern California.  Any thoughts?

(Photo of Blackhawk School courtesy of the Hoffman Estates History Museum.  Photo of Anne Fox courtesy of Bill Engler.)

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21 Responses to “REMEMBERING BLACKHAWK SCHOOL”

  1. Bruno Cattivabrutto Says:

    This building would have been great in California. Here in Illinois, it seemed to flood a lot and I don’t think it was that well insulated.

  2. Katherine Carraher Says:

    I found your site while looking for a photo of my old elementary school. And here I found it, along with a photo of my beloved first grade teacher, Anne Fox! I don’t know how well-insulated the building was, but as a student, I loved it. The inventive architecture with its walls of glass was wonderful, and I have happy memories of playing beneath the enormous oak tree outside my second grade classroom. Ms. Fox truly was an amazing teacher, and I was lucky to be transferred to her class after the school discovered I was starting first grade already a fluent reader. (Back in those days, students were generally taught how to read in the first grade — not in kindergarten, as they are today.) Thanks so much for posting these photos … I can’t wait to show them to my kids, who are in elementary school today!

    • jrozek Says:

      This is exactly the kind of comment I love to hear–a bit more detail about the school and the teacher than I was able to provide! I’m glad you stumbled across our blog. If you’re a Hoffman Estates girl, you’ll like Pat Barch’s next posting on the old water tower in Hoffman Plaza. She’s the Hoffman Estates historian and she did a wonderful job delving into the history of the HE water towers. Look for it on Sunday…

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian

  3. Mark Vassmer Says:

    I remember attending Blackhawk for the 1st & 2nd grade, walking there from Mohawk Lane, now Mohave. My favorite teacher was Miss Fox.

  4. Duane S Says:

    I remember attending a book fair at Blackhawk School. The design was quite modernistic in its day. However, the construction quality left a lot to be desired in terms of keeping out the Chicago area’s extreme weather.

    • jrozek Says:

      I have heard the same thing about the building’s construction. It was not really meant to withstand northern Illinois weather elements!

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian

  5. Don Cahoon Says:

    Hi, I really enjoyed reading this blog about Blackhawk School. It was interesting to learn about the design. I actually attended Sam Hoffman School. Fun times and great teachers.

  6. Laura A Says:

    I attended Blackhawk School from K-3rd grade at which point is was closed. My parents collected signatures door to door to keep thje school open. Lots of memories there. In the south hexagon there was a reading area that included a old claw footed bathtub filed with throw pillows and a few easy chairs. Next to that was an alcove the school has us students paint a mural depicting development and construcion equipment… cont.

  7. Laura A Says:

    There were a log of great teachers there. There was a mimiograph machine in the office and all of the students loved to “go pick up the dittos” so we could smell them and enjoy the warm/moist paper! A welder came in and welded a statue of Chiff Blackhawk out of metal objects students brought in. I recall bumpers and even a hot water heater dropped off in front of the school! The statue was bigger than life sized and stood in by the front door. The gym had a full sized stage and most classes put on plays on that stage. I was in a Spirit of 76 play that was put on by my class.

    • jrozek Says:

      Hi Laura,

      These are some really neat memories of Blackhawk School–particularly the one of the statue. What an interesting idea! You wouldn’t by chance have any photos of your time at Blackhawk School would you? We only have a couple of photos and anything the public could add would be much appreciated.

      If you–or anyone else you know of–has any photos or brochures or report cards or programs from any early District 54 days, I would love the opportunity to scan them for our collection. Please contact me at jrozek@stdl.org or 847-923-3331.

      Thank you!

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian

  8. Kim Says:

    I attended Blackhawk from 1969 to 1972 for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades. I had Miss Perco, Mrs. Henry who lived 4 houses north of me, and Mrs. Vickman. TV weatherman Harry Volkman visited our school when I was there too. I remember the art supply closet in the north hexagon, as well as the library. I began reading my beloved Nancy Drew books there, and have all 56 hardbacks, most bought at Woodfield Mall’s Sears. I remember in 1971 our only African American student joined us, as well as a student of Filipino descent. I became friends with both girls, and the experience eventually led to my husband and I being one of the first in our town to adopt transracially. I used to run home after school to watch Gilligan’s Island and Speed Racer, and came home for lunch to eat and watch Bozo’s Circus. I was the first in my class whose parents were divorcing, so we moved to Meadow Trace Apts (now Woodfield Gardens) at the edge of Rolling Meadows and were bussed back to Twinbrook. However, my fondest elementary school memories were always at Blackhawk!

  9. George Debbs Says:

    my memories of the school was playing little league there and when I got my first home run hit, which ended up in the front window of a house behind the ball field, which really shocked everyone, me included.

  10. Jeff Says:

    I went their between 1965-1970. My last 2 years were spent in the Mobil homes they added for room. Mr. Depinto was my 6th grade teacher. I remember in my 4th grade class my friend drove himself thru one of the big windows into the classroom in his bike. He came out ok.

  11. J Ernest Clausen III Says:

    I attended there between 1960-1963 but what I enjoyed thoroughly was learning the Eb Clarinet. Though getting to view current events in the auditorium/Physical Recreation Hall was an experience never to be forgotten. John Glenn first manned space flight, Election votes, Cuban Crisis, JFK shooting, which somehow prepared us for how an education could make a difference in our future if we were aware of it, Still, we should have questions ready before we engaged the in a whole world of differences, rain or shine.

    • jrozek Says:

      Gathering the school together to watch life changing events like those you mentioned was very progressive of the school/school district. These memories obviously had an impact on you. Thank you for the comment Mr. Clausen.

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian
      Schaumburg Township District Library

  12. Robert Atcher Says:

    I am trying to remember my third grade teacher’s name – Jessie Valerio? That would be 59-60. Had Mrs Babbits for 4th – she was a disaster, the worst teacher I ever had. Mr DeGorgio for sixth grade – talk about a contrast – he was such a terrific teacher. We would visit him at home in Arlington Hts after we finished our stint at Blackhawk. He was by far the best teacher I had in primary and jr. high!

  13. Tom Says:

    I remember the school not as a school since I started first grade in the newly built Enders-Salk just over the (hill) town line from where I lived but as the location of Spectrum where I found many jobs as a teenager. Spectrum was, among other things, a job service for the youth. I got jobs through them of lawn care, serving at banquet halls, etc. Nowadays I wish I could find a place like that where I live, one to get some needed work done and two to send my kids to when they need a job.

    • jrozek Says:

      Spectrum, indeed, provided a valuable service to the young people of the township. Whether it was providing a place to hang out, job possibilities or informal counseling for local teens, Spectrum had a devoted staff and volunteers ready to help.

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian
      Schaumburg Township District Library

  14. Keith F. Says:

    Very interesting. I tried Google Images Blackhawk Elementary circa 1965 to find this amazing piece of local history. I was at Blackhawk from fall 1960 until winter 1965 when my family moved south for warmer climate and family business opportunity. Ms. Fox was my first grade teacher. She was patient and kind. She saw me squinting in the middle of the classroom. She moved me to a front row seat and sent a note home to my parents that I may need my vision checked. She was right. Got my first pair of glasses and squinted no more! Had Ms. Schoeler [sp] for 3rd grade and Ms. Spencer later. Remember Ms. Greenbaum later Mrs. Goldsmith in 5th grade.

    I remember playing kick ball and dodge ball in the gym often during our recess in the winter. There was no cafeteria, so those of us who lived close walked home for lunch or brought a brown bag lunch. I lived near Payson St. and Peoria Drive. I could see the school from the curb in front of our house. Our back yard was Schaumberg Road. The school playground area was covered with smooth pea-sized river rock. I will look through my old pics that my mother left to me. There was one or 2 old classroom photos in there.

    • jrozek Says:

      Keith,

      This is very good detail to add to the collective knowledge of Blackhawk School. In fact, I’m going to include some of it in the posting itself.

      I will also be starting a series this month on the schools of Schaumburg Township and will be rerunning this posting at some time this year. It would be wonderful to be able to include any classroom photos you might be able to pass on. You can contact me at jrozek@stdl.org about the possibility.

      Thank you for being so generous!

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian
      jrozek@stdl.org

  15. Viki Hutchinson Cromer Says:

    I moved with my mother and two brothers to Schaumburg in the summer or 1969 to a brand new home 🏡 in Timbercrest. We moved from Ft. Lauderdale,Fl because my Mom had gotten re-married. I had never seen snow so Schaumburg was a total culture shock‼️But Blackhawk Elementary was similar in design to Florida schools so I felt at home. I attended fourth grade in 1968-69 through sixth grade in 1970-71.I do remember the classrooms being very cold (especially coming from Florida 🌴!)so I would wear my coat inside all day! My first year my classroom was inside the main building, but fifth and sixth grades were in the awful trailers ( no air conditioning!). I can only remember my fifth grade teacher, Miss Argerian. She was very young and I believe we were her very first classroom. I LOVED her. She was so sweet and beautiful.She had short very dark hair and always dressed in really hip clothes. I wanted to be just like her! I wish I could remember more‼️

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