Elm Place has been educating school children in the Highland Park community since 1869. Thousands of people who spent years growing up in Highland Park fondly look back on their years at Elm Place as some of the best of their lives. Our alumni, regardless of class year, maintain fond memories and value the school, the staff and Elm Place's sense of tradition. As Elm Place moves forward into the 21st century, it casts its eyes on its roots and heritage.
In an area which is now the northern limit of Highland Park, a small town called St. Johns came into existence. The town's main business was producing a dull yellow brick from the local clay. It was in St. Johns that the first log school house was built in 1846 to educate the children in the area.
In 1850, another thriving community just south of St. Johns, Port Clinton, built its log school house. Six years later in 1856, the log school was replaced by a brick building, the Port Clinton School. It was in existence for over fifty years, housing grades 1-5. The only subjects taught in the school were reading, writing and arithmetic.
Gradually, the two small towns, St. Johns and Port Clinton dwindled away as the newer town of Highland Park grew in importance. In 1869, Highland Park officially became an incorporated city. In that same year, Port Clinton Avenue School was built on the site where Elm Place School now stands. The school faced Port Clinton Avenue which later became known as North Sheridan Road. In 1883 a small frame structure, erected just east of the main building, was constructed to relieve overcrowding.
As Highland Park grew, it was clear that even more additional space was needed, so in 1893 Port Clinton Avenue School was replaced with a large two-story brick building for a cost of $19,950. The new building, known as Elm Place School, consisted of eight large rooms, wide halls and stairways. It was lit by kerosene lamps. School hours were from 8:00am to 12:00pm and 1:00pm to 5:00pm. In 1905 an addition was added to the north end of the building which contained six additional classrooms. By 1905, fifteen teachers were on staff. The only subjects taught in Elm Place at this time were reading, writing, arithmetic and geography. Music became part of the curriculum in 1900.
In 1905, Jesse Lowe Smith, Superintendent, began a custom where each morning the students assembled at 9:00am in the auditorium. Each class was headed by a student bearing their classroom flag. Also, there was a flag dismissal every noon for forty years. Children left the building by passing through rows of flags held by their classmates. In addition, a flag parade ceremony was always held on Flag Day.
The Flag Day tradition evolved and continues at Elm Place School even today. On the last day of student attendance, the students enter the auditorium by Advisory group. Each group is led by a student bearing their classroom's flag. During the ceremony, the students view replicas of flags used throughout our nation's history, and a new flag is presented to the school by the local Veterans' group.
In 1914 a Primary Building was erected east and north of the original building, facing Elm Place. The building contained four large classrooms, each with an outdoor entrance,and a large kindergarten room opening by means of French doors onto a wide stone terrace. Pictured here is Miss Schermerharn's 1915 class.
A lot adjoining the school site became available on Sheridan Road. On this lot in 1923, a new Intermediate Building was erected for a cost of $110,000. It was placed near the eastern boundary of the lot, leaving a wooded ravine between the school and Sheridan Road. The ravine was a spot of rustic beauty, with little log bridges and woodland paths bordered with wild flowers.
In 1938, the stream running through the ravine became contaminated and had to be drained. The floor of the ravine was leveled and covered with crushed stone to make a playground. This play area became known as "The Bowl".
The new Intermediate Building lacked an auditorium, so in 1924, with money raised by the students, PTA and community, an auditorium was added to the north end of the building. The auditorium was dedicated to Jesse Lowe Smith, Superintendent of the district for 30 years.
1925- See a real yearbook from Class of '25 Student, Cecilia Petersen. She generously shared her yearbook with us through 6th grader, Nicole G.
In 1931 a unique feature was added to the Intermediate Building. An observatory equipped with a six-inch refracting telescope was built with eighth grade class funds, contributions by the Parent Teacher Association and other gifts. The observatory was dedicated to Ellen M. Guiney, a teacher in the school for almost thirty years.
The 1970's brought about great change to the Elm Place campus. In the summer of 1970, Elm Place School (the building erected in 1893) and the Primary Building (erected in 1914), now known as "the Annex" were demolished to make way for a new building. The new building, which is the present day Elm Place Middle School, incorporates the Intermediate Building, the Jesse Lowe Smith Auditorium and a new addition.
The new building incorporates the Intermediate Building, the Jesse Lowe Smith Auditorium and a new addition. The addition added a new gymnasium, library, cafeteria, office space and 15 new classrooms.
Elm Place Middle School
2031 N. Sheridan Rd.
Highland Park, IL 60035
7:50 am - 2:40 pm
Attendance Line: 224-765-3305
Principal: Heather Schumacher
Associate Principal: Deb Ancona
Blue and White