The historic town of Edwardsville, Illinois, has always been
noted for its strong interest in education. This interest
has manifested itself in one-room schoolhouses, large public
schools, private schools, and a university. The Edwardsville
Community Unit School District, which encompasses
approximately 185 square miles of territory in the suburban
St. Louis area, is one of the oldest and proudest school
districts in the state of Illinois.
The first public school, named after the prominent Judge
Dale, was built on Kansas Street in 1864. A tall, imposing,
white brick structure, the multi-grade Dale School served
students of many ages, including a high school department
for older students.
In 1877, a free school for black children was opened in a
building that had formerly been used as the county
courthouse. The building, located in “lower town” (North
Main Street), would eventually become Lincoln School.
The need for another school for the younger students soon
became apparent. In 1886, Columbus School,
today District 7’s oldest school, was built on a site
adjacent to the Dale School. In 1896, another wing,
including eight large classrooms and a tall bell tower, was
added to Columbus. Both Columbus and Dale Schools were the
work of noted area architect C.H. Spillman.
A rapidly growing enrollment and the community’s emphasis on
education soon led to the building of a separate high school
in 1910. The Dale School was razed, and a handsome three
story building of Tudor design was erected in its place. The
new building, given the name of Edwardsville High School,
was considered by many to have been somewhat costly for its
time, but nevertheless, its dedication prompted a
In 1911, a petition was brought to the Board of Education
asking for the erection of a new building for black
students. The old building was razed, and a new, larger
Lincoln School was built on the same North Main Street Site
in 1912. A two-year high school department was also added to
Lincoln at that time.
By 1921, the high school was again too small to accommodate
its growing enrollment. This time the District purchased a
site near West and St. Louis Streets and erected a large new
high school, completed in 1925. The architect of this
stately building was M.B. Kane of Edwardsville. Because
funds were low, the gymnasium was not added until 1928. Many
other additions were made to the high school in later years
as the District attempted to make its small high school fit
the needs of the growing enrollment.
With the building of the new high school, the original 1910
building was then converted to a junior high, thus freeing
up more space for the District’s growing enrollment.
Students attended Columbus School through fourth or fifth
grades, and then moved to the nearby junior high for the
upper middle and junior high grades.
In 1934, the District was able to obtain another school site
on the southeast side of town. The N.O. Nelson Manufacturing
Company, which had operated its own Leclaire School since
1895, offered to sell the building and a four-acre site to
the District for the bargain price of $1,000. The District
retained the Leclaire School name and used the building as
an elementary school.
In 1949, the first steps were taken toward a highly
significant and long overdue event in the Edwardsville
district: the integration of its schools. First, the high
school department of Lincoln School was consolidated
with Edwardsville High School. Then, in 1951, all city
elementary schools were integrated, with Lincoln School also
reopening one year later as an integrated elementary school.
Throughout this time, children in the rural areas and small
towns adjacent to Edwardsville were being educated in
country schools that operated as independent districts.
Although the “one-room schoolhouses” flourished for many
years, by 1950, the state mandated that the smaller
districts consolidate with larger districts. More than 25
small, rural districts would eventually opt to join forces
In 1950, 13 districts united with Edwardsville to form the
newly reorganized Edwardsville Community Unit School
District 7. These 13 districts included Glen Carbon, Acme,
Center Grove, Goshen, Pin Oak, Union Grove, Quercus Grove,
Columbia, Hoxey, Hamel, Carpenter, Omphghent, and
Prairietown. Other rural districts soon followed.
Eventually, Hamel, Midway, Moro, and Quercus Grove emerged
as the northern area’s attendance centers. The addition of
the country schools gave the District the rural flavor that
it still enjoys today.
In 1953, in need of more land for the high school site, as
well as classroom and office space, the District
acquired the grounds and beautiful mansion of the W.F.L.
Hadley estate. The Hadleys, a prominent banking and law
family in Edwardsville’s early days, had built the mansion
in 1875. A new wing was added to the gracious fifteen-room
mansion subsequent to the District’s acquisition of the
property. It was used for many years as a primary school and
the District’s central office. Today, Hadley House is still
used as the District’s central office and a community
meeting room. In the early 1980’s, a major renovation of
Hadley House was undertaken through private donations and
volunteer labor to restore it to its earlier beauty.
By the early 1950’s, the baby boom of the post World War II
era was being felt in Edwardsville, and plans were made for
a massive building program to accommodate the increasing
enrollment. A comprehensive plan was developed, which called
for additions to some buildings, improvements to others, and
new buildings in the areas expected to grow.
The most significant additions were the large, new
facilities constructed at the Leclaire and Glen Carbon
sites. The two schools, similar in design, were the work of
Edwardsville architect Edward Kane. The “new” Leclaire
School, located on a site purchased on Franklin Avenue, was
the larger of the two new facilities. Glen Carbon had
maintained a school for many years prior to its merger with
Edwardsville. The old school, constructed in 1914,
eventually became the village hall. Glen Carbon School was
constructed on a site donated on Birger Avenue.
The 1954 building boom saw improvements to Moro, Carpenter,
and Quercus Grove; a major addition was completed at the
Columbus/junior high facility. A connecting building was
then completed. The new wing contained a cafeteria and a
The need for another building in the northern area continued
to be a high priority. In December 1956, a proposal was made
to build a new school on a donated site in Midway. This
school would accommodate
students from Midway, Prairietown, and Yorkville. Funds were
secured, the site was donated, and a new building was
constructed in 1957.
In the late fifties, a move began to build a new and
separate junior high. A recommendation was made to locate a
new junior high near the high school, in order to facilitate
coordination of programs and sharing of facilities. A new
building was designed and constructed on some recently
acquired land adjacent to the high school. The new junior
high opened in the fall of 1960, with a parade of students
from Columbus to the new site.
By 1964, the District was once again suffering from a
serious lack of space to house its ever-increasing
enrollment. Plans were made to create a new elementary
center. In March 1965, the issue was put before the voters
and succeeded. The new elementary school was located on a
site at the west end of High Street. It featured the “open
classroom” concept in its primary grade rooms. The new
school, named after local industrialist and humanitarian N.O.
Nelson, opened in 1967.
After the building of N.O. Nelson School, the District again
set its sights on the northern area. Continuing its plan of
enlarging facilities and consolidating rural schools in that
area, the District unveiled plans for a new Hamel School.
Built on a 23-acre site on Route 140, the new school soon
became a point of pride for the community. Hamel School
opened in the fall of 1969, the most recent elementary
school built by the District.
As the District entered the early seventies, the enrollment
reached an all-time high of over 5,400 students.
The only construction done in the seventies consisted of
additions to certain buildings. The new auditorium wing was
added at the high school to replace the old gymnasium wing,
which had been lost in a fire in the fall of 1969.
While enrollment declined in the late seventies, it reversed
abruptly in the mid-eighties, and an enrollment
boom began. New housing developments in the Edwardsville
area, combined with the District’s reputation for
excellence, attracted many new residents to the District. A
critical lack of space at all levels became District 7’s top
concern as its record-breaking growth continued.
A significant property acquisition was made in 1981. A
critical lack of outdoor space at the overcrowded high
school site prompted a group of citizens to join together
for the purpose of establishing a sports complex on Center
Grove Road. This 50-acre site would eventually be developed
with the help of many donations and much volunteer labor. A
small building to house the offices and diagnostic center of
the Region II Special Education Cooperative was built on the
Center Grove property in 1982. This building now houses the
high school’s self-contained behavioral-disorder program and
the in-house suspension program.
In 1987, the neighboring Worden School District followed the
pattern set by other rural districts in the fifties and
annexed to District 7. Worden brought to the annexation two
greatly needed buildings, eight square miles of territory,
120 students, and many of its staff members. The Worden High
School, with its WPA gym, was completely renovated and
reopened as an elementary school. A smaller building in
Worden became the Alternative High School.
In 1992, the District converted its elementary schools from
K-6 buildings to primary and intermediate attendance centers
in another effort to house its growing elementary
population. A solution to the space problem was achieved in
1993, when the communities of District 7 passed the “Three
Point Plan.” This plan called for the building of a
state-of-the-art high school, the conversion of the old high
school to a middle school, and the conversion of the junior
high to Woodland Elementary School. All three schools opened
in the fall of 1997, helping the District provide more space
for its children. In 1998, the District continued to plan
for growth by developing the Five-Year Plan. It included:
- Construction of an additional middle school that
houses 800-1,000 students (now Liberty
- Renovations to the existing middle school (now
Lincoln Middle School)
- Classroom additions to Hamel and Midway Elementary
- Partnership with Lewis & Clark Community College to
address vocational and space needs
at Edwardsville High School through renovation of the
N.O. Nelson Complex and class room conversions at EHS
- Securing land necessary for future growth
All of these components, with the exception of classroom
conversions at EHS, were completed by the
2003-2004 academic year.
Since the end of 2001-2002, the District has added nearly
500 students, placing further strain on District
7 schools. Actual growth has exceeded the historical trend
data upon which projections are based. At the high school
level, the District’s partnership with Lewis & Clark
Community College at the Nelson Complex has helped alleviate
overcrowding. The opening of Liberty Middle School has
relieved the pressure at the middle school level.
Now, the focus shifts to the elementary schools, most of
which are at or near capacity. (Research shows
that a range of 300-400 students is the most acceptable
population size for an elementary school, though
District 7 elementary school populations range from
approximately 170 (Hamel Elementary) to 715
(Woodland Elementary). The District was able to address the
growth that was projected for 2004-05.
The plan for 2005-06 includes moving programs to other
District facilities and utilizing less-desirable
space. The contingency plan for 2006-07 may include boundary
changes, portable classrooms, increased
class sizes, and housing students in less-desirable spaces.
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