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DeKalb County schoolhouses revived as homes, teaching tools

Bill and Mary Lloyd's home on the 400 block of Charles Street in Sycamore was originally a schoolhouse named South School.
Bill and Mary Lloyd's home on the 400 block of Charles Street in Sycamore was originally a schoolhouse named South School.

Local landscaper Bill Lloyd’s Sycamore home has changed a lot since its early days as a one-room schoolhouse.

The room where the children studied is now his master bedroom.

Subsequent owners have expanded the building since it was converted for use as a home, adding a second floor with more bedrooms and expanding it to 4,000 square feet. But signs of its former life remain.

“I’ve been here for 11 years,” Lloyd said. “You can tell it was an old schoolhouse because it still has a bell tower. Now, if I just had a bell.”

The last one-room schoolhouse in DeKalb County closed in 1957, but some of the buildings remain in use today as homes, historic sites and even a bank’s community room.

The former Latimer School, on Rich Road, also is used as a private residence. It is listed for sale, said Mary Keys, marketing director at Resource Bank.

According to the locally produced book, “Rural School Journeys: A Legacy of Learning,” Latimer School remains on the property where it was built northwest of DeKalb on Rich Road, west of Annie Glidden Road.

Keys said the former Quilhot School serves as the community room in the new Shabbona branch of Resource Bank at 102 S. Indian Road. The building now is a community room.

“When we build a branch, we want to be sure we can offer community space, especially in the smaller communities where public spaces are not readily available,” Keys said. “Schools have so many functions for their spaces. To have an additional public area is an asset for a small community.”

Keys said the Quilhot School was chartered in 1856 as District 4. The school building was closed in 1948 and moved by Miles Quilhot in 1950. More recently, it was used as a shed by the Mullins family.

“I find it interesting that the most students in the building at one time was 50, and today as a community room, the occupancy is 49,” Keys said.

Two more former schools are being used as teaching tools.

Known today as the Milan Township District 83 schoolhouse, the former Tysdal school was moved from the area of Tower and Perry roads to the campus of Northern Illinois University. Closed in 1942, the building was left to deteriorate until it was donated to the Blackwell History of Education Museum in 1996.

In the past, the school was available for school field trips to show students a typical day in a one-room schoolhouse. Richard Casey, director of the learning center at the Blackwell Museum, said the building has not been available for a variety of reasons, including renovation of the learning center.

“When the former curator retired, it sat for a while,” Casey said. “We’re trying to get things back on track.”

He said they are reworking the curriculum and hope to hire docents from various campus departments.

“I don’t know if it will be open next semester,” he said. “That’s our goal, but if we can’t get it ready, we may have to shoot for the spring of ‘15.”

North Grove School is open to the community three different weekends during the summer, according to Teresa “TJ” Irving, president of the North Grove School.

“Up until this year, the availability of the school was limited by temperature,” she said. “We recently purchased a stand-alone heating and air conditioning unit.”

That will allow the association to host its first autumn open house at the school at 26745 Brickville Road west of Sycamore, from 2 to 5 p.m. Nov. 30.

“It will be an old-fashioned Christmas,” Irving said. “It’s a first for us,”

Because it was built in 1878 by the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church, the celebration will include Swedish treats and Santa Lucia, the patron saint of Sweden.

Used mostly by Sycamore teachers, the school is available to any school district for field trips. The building is owned by the Sycamore School District 427. 

“We would like to see it used more,” Irving said.

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