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 community-wide celebration.

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 with Edwardsville.

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 music suite.

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
    Middle School)
  • Renovations to the existing middle school (now Lincoln Middle School)
  • Classroom additions to Hamel and Midway Elementary Schools
  • 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 (“D” wing)
  • 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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Edwardsville School District #7 • 708 St. Louis St. • Edwardsville • IL • 62025 • (618) 656-1182
Last updated on: July 25, 2012 at 12:33 PM
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