v26-3 Peirce School Celebrates 100 Years in Edgewater

Vol. XXVI No. 3 - FALL 2015

Open House Oct 24 1-4 p.m.

By Kathy Gemperle

On October 24, 2015, the Helen C. Peirce School will celebrate 100 years of public service with an open house at the school from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. The focus will be on the history exhibit and the schools tradition of academic excellence and character building programs.

There will be an event at Loyola University that evening from 7:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. for which reservations are required.

This school in Edgewater is a special place because of how it was named and sponsored by the Lakeview Woman’s Club. Helen Peirce was the founding president of the Lakeview Woman’s Club and when she passed away her club members decided to seek the naming of a new public school in her honor. It was approved by the Board of Education in 1912.

What happened next was pretty amazing. The Lakeview Woman’s Club continued their involvement in the school and over the next 10 years saw to it that a special Kindergarten was developed and dedicated to Helen C. Peirce, who was an advocate for childhood education. Her husband Luther Peirce supported the project with funds and his contacts in the Chicago area. The architect was George Grant Elmslie, a member of the Prairie School. The room was designed with beautiful Prairie School elements like the slotted oak doors and the stained glass windows in a solarium. A stage was built at one end and along one wall a series of panels were placed at child’s eye level. John W. Norton was hired to produce a series of paintings for the panels, one for each month of the year. A special area was designated for the kindergarteners just outside the room on the beautifully landscaped playground that was designed by Jens Jensen, a landscape architect. All this investment in the kindergarten encouraged the women to acquire more artwork for the school. They purchased and donated many beautiful paintings that now hang throughout the school. 

In 2013, under the leadership of Dr. Janice M. Rosales, we sought the landmarking of the kindergarten rooms at Peirce School by the Chicago Landmark Commission. The proposal awaits the support of the Chicago Public Schools to move forward in the process. In this case, an exception to the rule of only landmarking exteriors would come into play. Among the reasons to landmark this kindergarten is that the materials and design used in the room could easily be replaced or destroyed, depending on the plans of the Principal. At one point in the history of the extraordinary room, the original maple floor was covered with linoleum and the stained glass was left in disrepair. Another window was converted to a door. These kinds of alterations can continue to happen without some restrictions placed by the landmark commission. There would be no advanced restrictions, but any alterations would need approval by the commission. The Edgewater community is fortunate to have such an excellent example of Prairie-style architecture in the neighborhood.

Further information on the 100th Anniversary celebration is at: FriendsOfPeirce.org/centennial

Community members are invited to attend the Open House and the evening celebration. Why not stop by to see the school, the kindergarten and the beautiful paintings.