PAUL SCHWEIKHER AND THE SCHAUMBURG SCHOOL HE DESIGNED

Until the start of the spring semester of 1954, the public school children of Schaumburg Township had been attending one-room schools. The two remaining schools of the five one-room buildings that had once been sprinkled throughout the township, were the District 54 School at Schaumburg and Roselle Road and the District 51 School on Higgins Road near Huntington Boulevard. They are shown below.

In 1952, however, these school districts consolidated into School District 54. On December 20 of that year a special election gave the Board of Education approval to purchase and construct a school site for the district. The school board then chose a site on the north side of Schaumburg Road, just west of Plum Grove Road.

By March 26, 1953 when an article ran in the Roselle Register regarding the Cook County Circuit Court’s validation of the formation of the school district, the school board had already commissioned local resident and architect, Paul Schweikher, to design their school. “The plans for the new school building are well along so that with the favorable court decision the prospects for a modern school for Schaumburg are now almost a certainty.”

A later article of April 30, 1953 stated that “Mr. Schweikher is still drawing up plans for the new building, to cost $150,000.” He must have been a busy man, scurrying to get these plans finalized, as this was near the time that he was departing the area and his architecture practice to take the role of Chair of the Yale University Architecture Department. Interestingly enough, his son Paul attended the one room school at Schaumburg and Roselle until their departure.

The following photo, compliments of William Engler, is of the groundbreaking of the school which must have taken place in the spring or summer of 1953. Mr. Engler’s father was one of the trustees. From left to right are:  John Bierman, Frank Wiley, Al Straub (behind William Greve), William Greve, Herbert Buesching in the dark framed glasses, Emil Lichthardt, Paul Engler, and Henry Hartman.

The 1953-54 school year began with the students of District 54 divided between the Sunderlage School (formerly District 51), Schaumburg Center School (formerly District 54) and the Elk Grove School. By this time, Robert Flum had been hired as the school principal and was fulfilling that position as well as teaching at the Sunderlage School.

At the end of the fall semester students were instructed to take their belongings home with them in preparation for the opening of the new school. It was expected to open at the beginning of the spring semester but a delay occurred because of a local plumber’s strike and the fact that floor tile had not yet been received. [Daily Herald, January 7, 1954]

A couple of weeks later, on January 18, 1954, Schaumburg School opened. Around 80 students were now consolidated in a modern four classroom building with proper equipment and supplies–and indoor plumbing! Some of the teachers were Mr. Flum, Miss Anne Fox and Mrs. Paulus. Grades were doubled up in the school with the majority of the students enrolled in grades 1-4.

In viewing the building, it is obvious that Mr. Schweikher used Roselle School as a model for Schaumburg School. It is built in the same linear, one-story style with the four classrooms in a row and a slightly offset chimney in front that can be seen in the photo below.

The differences were the windows, the style of the chimneys and east and west walls, and the fact that the play/assembly area in Roselle School was two stories.

Where Roselle School (pictured above) had floor to ceiling windows with staggered framing, Schaumburg School had large windows that were framed without mullions.

The chimneys were also decidedly different. Roselle School’s chimney was rectangular and brick. Schaumburg School’s chimney is comprised of field stones which, in my impression, were liberated from piles of stones that Mr. Schweikher must have seen in various farm fields of Schaumburg Township. He added these same stones on the east and west sides of the building. It was a nice, local tribute to the farms he was surrounded by. The chimney still exists today as do the walls that are now contained within the building.

The play/assembly area in Schaumburg School was single storied and, judging by the Hedrich Blessing photos of the school, appeared to be adjacent to the front desk. The reception area consisted of one long desk and an open office area behind. The assembly area was opposite the desk. Open ceilings and open shelving could be found throughout the rooms of the building.

This incredibly modernistic building in the middle of a field was the swan song of Paul Schweikher’s time in the area. It was quite a difference maker for a school district that was used to one room schools with rudimentary tools and equipment.  And, even though the school was quickly added onto, we are fortunate that elements of his design still exist.

The next time you’re driving past District 54’s headquarters on Schaumburg Road, take note of that stone chimney and stone wall. Not only are they part of Schaumburg Township’s rural history, they are also part of our modern history. This unique school, in fact, ushered in an educational era for a township that was only just beginning its phenomenal growth.

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library
jrozek@stdl.org

The photo of the District 51 school is compliments of Marion Ravagnie.

The photo of Roselle School is compliments of the Roselle History Museum.

The last photo is compliments of the Paul Schweikher Collection at Arizona State University.

 

 

One Response to “PAUL SCHWEIKHER AND THE SCHAUMBURG SCHOOL HE DESIGNED”

  1. Roselle History Museum Says:

    Hi Jane, you have found so many connections, for stories related to Schwieker!    It’s a good article, so I will go to check out this school sometime.     Joan

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