Volume Thirty

No. 4


March 1989


Mark your calendar now for a special upcoming event ...


An Evening at The Old Louise White School


November 25, 1989 - Between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.


Plan to take advantage of this unique opportunity to tour this memory-filled building, recently renovated into a spectacular private residence graced with elegant decor and exquisite antiques.


Enjoy a champagne dessert, festive holiday music, and vignettes displaying choice antiques provided by a number of top quality dealers from throughout the midwest.


This event, organized by Batavia's antique dealers, is a benefit for our Society to raise funds to assist in enlarging and enhancing the display areas at the Depot Museum.  


Tickets will be limited.  

However, Society members may reserve tickets prior to their sale to the public.  See details on the last page of this newsletter.







Education in Batavia began in 1834 when local settlers erected a building used as a school, meeting hall and church.  


This structure was located about one mile east of the Fox River and early records indicate nine children attended school. That building may have been used for school purposes no more than four years, although it is uncertain just when and how many schools were erected on the east side before 1860.


In a "Historical Sketch" printed in 1903 by the West Batavia School District, it states: "In the year 1838 a little one-story school building was erected on the lot now occupied by the "East Side" school building. This soon became too small to accommodate the pupils and it was decided to make two school districts, to be known as Districts No.5 and No.6.”


Mr. George Bird, a long-time city employee and resident, related to our former historian, John Gustafson, that the lot on the southeast corner of Park and Fayette streets was the location of a school in early years. If this was in addition to, or a replacement for, the school built on the old Louise White site in 1838, is not known.


As public school laws as we know them today did not exist in those earliest days of Batavia, these buildings must have been built and supported by donations and fees. Some funds may have come from the sale of lands set aside for school purposes under the federal land ordinances.






In 1860, the East Side District #6 constructed a three-story stone school on the same lot as the one mentioned in the preceding quotation---the site of the old Louise White School. This school, pictured to the right, cost approximately $6000. In those days few students went beyond the eighth grade, but what high school classes were held were in the same building as the elementary ones. 


The high school was started in 1876 and its first graduating class con­sisted of eight students. The curriculum was a three year course of study at that time. This building served the east side until it was destroyed by fire on January 10, 1893. The school board was successful in collecting all of its $9500 insurance and a $10,000 bond issue was approved unanimously to construct a new school on the same site. While the new building was being built, classes were held in the Thomle Block (Phipp's store building) and other available locations on the east side.  


The stone from the old school supposedly was used to fill State St. from Washington Ave. to River St.  It was nicknamed "Buttermilk Alley" as the farmers' wagons lined up along it to deliver milk to the Kee & Chapell Dairy at the foot of the hill.


The present building on the site, the "Old Louise White School,” was erected quickly at a cost of $15,045. Thus, the school board needed to use only half of the approved bond issue!  The school was dedicated on January 1, 1894 and was used until 1979 when the present Louise White School on N. Prairie Street was opened and the old school sold at auction as prescribed by law. The current owners, the Daytons, purchased the building in 1985 and have been renovating it for its new uses. The Society is most .appreciative of the willingness of the Daytons to allow the public to tour their home during the benefit which the local antique dealers are sponsoring.


The graduates of the East Side High School were a loyal and ambitious group. Starting in 1889 they published an annual newsletter, Vox Alumni. A copy of the first page of the 1894 issue which discusses the loss of the old school and the opening of the new one, can be found in this newsletter. The Society is fortunate to have copies of this paper covering several years in the period from 1889 to 1895.




As noted earlier, the first schools in Batavia were on the east side of the Fox River as that is where the earliest settlers lived. As the village grew and settlers built on the west side, the need for more schools became evident. The first school on the west side was conducted in the Congregational Church, then located where Hubbards Home Furnishings now stands. After about six years it was moved to St. Joe's Church located at the present site of the Calvary Episcopal Church. Later, this building was sold to become a reaper factory and the school had to move again. It occupied rooms on the second floor of a building near the corner of Batavia Ave. and First St. known as the Whitney Bldg.  


As space needs increased, it became evident that a regular public school needed to be built. The lot on which the Bethany Lutheran Church now stands was purchased and a schoolhouse was constructed in 1852 at a cost of $1200. It was enlarged in 1858. One source of information indicates that space was rented for one year (1863) at the Batavia Institute.



(Bellevue Place)


In 1867, Central School (later to be named Grace McWayne School) was constructed in the middle of the block where the playground of the present McWayne School is located.


This three story stone structure, pictured above, cost $27,100. The small stone church built by the Methodists at the corner of First St. and Lincoln (then Washington) was purchased in 1888 for use as a high school.  


Later the high school classes were moved to the third floor of Central School and some of the lower grades moved to the old Methodist building.


This building was used until 1950 at which time it was razed and the present McWayne school took its place. The McWayne Annex (as it became known) was sold in 1977. A second building, the Blaine St. school, was erected in 1906 and used until it was sold in 1970 for the primary grades.




As noted earlier, Batavia had two school districts, No.5 (West Side) and No.6 (East Side).  


Each was operated by its own elected school board. Where these numbers originated is not known, but it may be that they were the fifth and sixth districts created in Kane County. At a later date the district numbers were changed to #100 and #101. This numbering was based on a countywide system of numbering all the districts in Kane County in sequence from the north to the south, going back and forth across the county township by township. In the 1900's, the districts began working more closely together.  


One or more high school teachers were employed to teach part-time in each district with the salaries shared, and a single person was employed to be superintendent of each district. In 1911 the two boards voted to conduct all the high school classes in the Main (Central) School and all eighth grade classes in the East Side School. The districts were consolidated, and a referendum was held to determine the site for a new consolidated high school and for approval of a bond issue.  


The voters selected the site of the present Batavia Junior High at Batavia Ave. and Wilson St. and approved overwhelmingly the issuance of $15,000 in bonds to purchase the site. In 1912,.a referendum was held again to secure approval of a bond issue to erect the building, with additional funds requested later when the Board of Education was unable to build what was needed for the original amount. The new high school was completed in 1915, with students moving in during February and the official dedication being held on March 29th.









Both Central School and the 1894 East Side School required additions following construction to meet the ever-increasing enrollments as Batavia grew---a problem the schools face today as well!


Early census records show the following teachers in Batavia:


1840 ............ 1 teacher         

1860 ............ 7 teachers         

1878 ............ 7 faculty (east side) -------  6 faculty (west side)  


The program on the right is a copy of an original for graduation from East Batavia High School in 1891.  

The Society has several similar programs in its collection,







Among the references used in writing the story of the old schools of Batavia were articles written by Tom Mair, Jeff Schielke, Bill Wood, and John Gustafson. Their previous research was very helpful and made my task considerably easier. On the following two pages are copies of the East Batavia High School alumni organization's annual paper, Vox Alumni.  


As previously mentioned, one is from 1894 and makes reference to the opening of the "new" East Side School. The other is a page from the first issue in 1889---100 years ago!  


The paper used was larger than that used for the newsletter so it was necessary to reduce the size to enable copying the entire pages. This makes reading them more difficult. However, I believed the inclusion of all the articles and the old advertisements were important even if it made reading harder, so get out the magnifying glass. One final item.


The Society needs volunteers to help at the Old Louise White Dessert --- guides, watchers (for security purposes), and help with clean-up --- each 1½ hrs. shift.  If you will help, please call Dot or Jim Hanson (879-7492) or Marilyn Phelps (879-1924)!










Prior to the public sale of tickets, members of the Batavia Historical Society may reserve tickets by sending in the form below accompanied by the required payment.  


Deadline for reserving tickets is Sept. 27, 1989!  Be sure to act promptly to guarantee receiving your ticket(s). 

Tickets will be sent to you after the deadline.  



Deadline: September 27, 1989     


Please reserve tickets for the Old Louise White School Champagne Dessert to be held on Saturday, November 25, 1989.  


Enclosed is payment for the ticket(s) at $6.00 each.  I understand the tickets will be mailed to me after the deadline for applying.


Name: ______________________________________________________

Address: ____________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________  


Mail to: Batavia Historical Society, P.O. Box 14, Batavia, IL 60510