Abandoned school in Rockford IL

Garrison School, Rockford Illinois
Date added: September 16, 2022 Categories: Illinois School
Gymnasium facing north (2005)

Garrison School was built in 1887 to serve the students in Rockford's northwest end. The school was doubled in size in 1892 to accommodate the growing student body. This coincided with the construction of several school buildings in the Rockford School system. Hall School was constructed on the near east side. (The school was razed in 2003.) Freeman School was built in 1893, Turner School in 1898, and Jackson School in 1908. Rockford was growing at a rapid rate at the end of the 19th century as a result of the booming furniture industry. There was a great influx of Swedish and Italian immigrants. The Italians settled in South Rockford and the Swedes settled in the near east end of Rockford.

Garrison School served several generations of the same families. The first four principals of Garrison school were women. Principal Lizzi Shaw, oversaw the school from its opening until 1891; Grace Crumb, from 1891 to 1912; Margaret O'Brien, from 1912 to 1941; and Irene Larson, who took over as principal in 1941; it is unclear when she retired. Garrison School was a true neighborhood school and often had lower enrollment than later public schools. School was taught in the homeroom manner; the children would stay in the same classroom and their teacher was expected to cover all subjects.

The Gymnasium was built in 1920 and set a precedent for school construction in the Rockford area. The Gymnasium served multiple functions, including physical education, sports, plays, social gatherings, school assemblies, and community programs. As a result, Garrison School had established a new function in the neighborhood as a community center.

The school was sufficient for the northwest end population for the first half of the 20th century, but in 1969 another addition was necessary. The one-story octagon-shaped addition was built onto the north side of the school. The building consisted of six classrooms surrounding a library. This form of architecture was used in other schools in the Rockford system, including the John F. Kennedy School, and was a new concept in education. All students in a grade would be together for some subjects and only separated on occasion.

Rockford Public School History

Rockford was founded by Germanicus Kent who moved to the west side of the Rock River in 1834. The following year, 1835, Haight Village was established on the east side of the river. The Village of Rockford was established on October 17, 1835. In 1839 the east and west sides of the river were incorporated into one village with a population of 235.

On January 3, 1852, Rockford received city status and the first city elections were held later that year. Rockford continued to grow in population due to its strategic location halfway between Chicago and Galena. In 1870 the population of Rockford was 11,049; in 1880, 13,129. At this time the furniture industry was booming and there was a large Swedish and Italian immigration into the city. By 1890 the population of Rockford was 23,534 and at the turn of the century the census counted 31,051 citizens of Rockford.

Rockford's first school was a private school taught by Miss Eunice Brown and was held in a log cabin beginning in 1837. From 1837 to 1855 Rockford children were educated in private schools where the teachers would bill the parents directly for their pay. In 1855 the city council passed its first school ordinance under a new Illinois state law. The city was initially divided into two school districts: the Westside and the Eastside. In 1857 the first schoolhouse was erected and named Kent School. A movement for the reorganization of the school system began in 1883, which proposed the consolidation of the two districts. The city council approved the consolidation and P.R. Walker was appointed the first superintendent of the Rockford Schools. Rooms on the second floor of a building located at 113 W. State Street were leased and Central High School opened in September of 1884. A site was chosen on South Madison to erect a High School Building and the school was dedicated on May 18, 1886. There were three additions to the school; in 1900, 1906, and 1914.

The first board of education was appointed by the Mayor of Rockford on November 19, 1906. Two members were chosen from each ward and the president from the city at large. Superintendent Walker suggested the schools be named for notable Rockford citizens and this plan was adopted. Garrison School was named for Thomas Garrison who came to Rockford from New Jersey in 1853. Garrison was a real estate developer and developed an addition which bore his name just north and east of the school along the Rock River; he passed away in 1871.

Building Description

Garrison School located at 1105 N. Court Street in Rockford, Illinois, consists of four distinct but joined structures. The original Garrison School, designed by George Bradley and Son in 1887, is the two-story building on the west elevation. In 1892 this structure was enlarged by doubling the width of the structure. The 1892 addition was also designed by George Bradley. In 1920 the gymnasium, designed by the firm of Peterson and Johnson, was added to the back of the building. The 1969 addition designed by Orput & Orput was added to the north elevation. The school is the only building on the south end of the block. It sits on the west half of the lot with an open field on the east side. The front entrance to the school sits back from the street and is accessed by a short sidewalk. There are concrete steps leading to the main entrance, flanked by a cast iron railing on the south side.

1887/1892 Building

The cream colored brick school has a limestone foundation. The hipped roof features lower cross gables. There are five chimneys on the building, all of brick construction. The two original chimneys are located at the apex of the roof and are spaced one-quarter of an inch from the north and south ends of the structure. The north chimney is square and sits at a 45 degree angle to the apex of the roof. There is a three course, stepped decorative element approximately five courses below the limestone cap. The south chimney is rectangular and sits at a 90 degree angle to the apex of the roof. The same decorative coursing and limestone cap are on this chimney. Two additional chimneys are located half way down the eastern slope of the roof and feature the same decorative coursing and cap. The fifth chimney is located on the western slope of the roof towards the south end of the building; its construction and decoration are the same as the other chimneys. The roofing material is asphalt tile. There is a decorative stone frieze featuring squares that resemble modillions that runs the perimeter of the 1887 and 1892 buildings. All of the windows are wood frame and feature limestone sills.

The west facade is the primary elevation of the school. The structure features a tripartite facade accentuated by a stepped protruding central entrance and pointed gables at the center of each of the three sections. A small round wood finial caps all of the gables. The corners of the entrance are defined by a decorative brick pattern of two face brick rows on either side of an end course. The central entrance is capped with a significant double Roman arch. There is a decorative fanlight over the double doors of the main entrance. The glazing bars of the fanlight create angles that mimic the gables. Across the front are alternating bays of single and paired double-hung windows. The individual double-hung windows are capped with a subtle brick arch, while the paired windows are capped with a straight limestone lintel. Square brick indentations create a decorative element between the two floors. The pointed gables are edged with the s same stone motif that appears on the frieze.

South Elevation

The south facade of the school is the secondary elevation and features a central protruding bay. The two floors of the south facade are separated by the square brick decorative element used on the west facade as well. The central protruding bay has paired double-hung windows on each floor and is capped by a pointed gable like the three on the west facade. On either side of the central bay are single double-hung windows, one on each floor. These windows are capped by a brick arch, as on the west facade.

North Elevation

The north elevation of the 1887/1892 structure features what would seem to be the same central protruding bay on the other elevations, however the east end of the north facade is very different. The protruding bay is a mirror of the south facade; a pair of double-hung windows with a limestone sill and lintel with the square brick ornamental delineation between the floors. The bay is also capped with the pointed dormer featuring two small windows and the square stone decorative elements. The west end of the north facade is again a repeat of the south; lone double-hung windows on each floor capped with a brick arch. The east end of the north facade does protrude further than the central bay, second floor windows are visible. There are three small fixed pane windows capped with a brick arch like those on the other facades. The first floor of the north is facade not visible from the street due to the placement of the 1969 addition.

East elevation

The east facade of the school also features the protruding central bay, however, the fenestration and decorative elements vary from the other three facades. The central bay of the east facade features a cross-hipped roof, rather than the gables seen on the other facades. There are three double-hung windows on the second floor of the central bay capped with the brick arch. The first floor of the central bay is not visible. The 1969 addition connected the original school building to the gym at the central bay. On either side of the central bay are five evenly spaced double-hung windows each capped with the brick arch.


The entrance to the school opens onto a small vestibule which leads to a second set of double doors. These open to the stair hallway which runs north/south. The interior of the original, 1887 school consisted of two classrooms on each floor with a staircase at the east end of the building. The 1892 addition doubled the size to four classrooms on each floor and maintained the central stair. The classrooms in the building were of uniform size. The stairwell has a simple iron railing with a square newel post. There are fixed transom windows above the raised six panel doors to the classrooms. The interior of the window frames as well as the transom windows are adorned with a carved wooden frame capped with corner blocks. The classrooms are large airy rooms, with 12' ceilings. The walls are plaster with a wood wainscot from the chair-rail to the floor. Chalkboards have been built in above the wainscot. The classrooms featured built-in cabinets with details that reflect the decorative element of the doors. Some of the cabinets were modified or replaced throughout the life of the school. Some of the rooms have 1' square linoleum floors and others are carpeted.

1920 Addition -- Gymnasium

The Colonial Revival gymnasium has some of the same decorative elements found on the original school. The one-story brick structure has a limestone foundation and a hipped roof. The large windows on the primary (south) facade are four-over-four topped with a fanlight and surrounded by a decorative brick arch with limestone keystones and accents. The central entrance of the south facade is also topped with a beautiful bracketed wood canopy and a louver transom. The entrance is surrounded by a decorative brick arch matching the window surrounds. There is a decorative brick course at the height of the limestone accents which runs the perimeter of the building. There are two smaller two-over-two fixed pane windows that flank the entrance and are capped with a bracketed pediment similar to the pediments on the gables of the school.

There are five windows matching the south facade windows evenly spaced along the southern 2/3rds of the east facade. The fifth window is above a single door. Two small double-hung windows with a small limestone key above are near the center between the door and the north end of the east facade. This change in fenestration was due to the interior of the building. The one-story boiler room is on the north end of the east facade. It is of brick construction with a limestone cap on the parapet. There is a small fixed pane window next to the door. A four-over-four window is just north of the fixed pane window. There is also a boarded opening at the center of this structure with a limestone sill.

The north facade of the gym is a one-story brick structure which is the boiler room.

There are two pairs of small double-hung windows visible on the upper floor of the North facade of the gym proper. The north facade of the boiler room has five evenly spaced openings, originally windows with limestone sills, which are now bricked in.

The west facade of the gym is partially obscured by the 1969 addition. What are visible are two windows which are the same as those on the east facade; arched brick with limestone key and side elements. The placement mirrors the two southern most windows of the east facade.

The entrance to the gymnasium is on the south facade. The gym fills the southern three-quarters of the structure. The north end of the interior houses the stage. The interior of the gymnasium is plaster and features wainscoting to the chair rail.

1969 Addition

In 1969 a one-story, octagon-shaped brick addition was added to the north end of the school. This structure consisted of six classrooms surrounding a library. Additionally, two classrooms were added in the walkway area that connected the new addition with the original building. This addition is connected to the original school building at its north end. There is no direct access to the gymnasium from the 1969 addition.