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Irving Celebrates Centennial

Alumni, staff, parents and students gather to celebrate Oak Park school's 100th birthday.

Current students, parents, and alumni from as far back as the class of 1943 gathered to celebrate the 100th year of Washington Irving Elementary School.

Guests were treated to a Taste of Irving dinner, building tours and a student chorus concert, among the night's other offerings.

About 75 alumni attended, according to Irving third grade teacher Nick Sakellaris, who helped advertise and organize the event.

Alumni checked out historical write-ups, photos and artifacts from the school.

“It’s completely changed,” said Etta Blair from the class of 1961, now a resident of Villa Park. When she was a student, the grades went up through eighth grade— the school now just services students through fifth.

She chatted with Inez (Cherner) Novak, from the class of 1957. Both recalled the addition of a fence around the outdoor play lot, a safety measure that wasn't there back in the day.

“It was a different world then,” Novak said. 

Parents and administrators are now , and the project avoided a setback when the . A booth at the centennial celebration promoted the plans for a new, greener look to the school’s backyard.

Another booth, put together by Irving parent Lori McConnell with the help of the , included old photos and newspaper clippings from when the school was built a century ago.

The original building at 1125 S. Cuyler Ave. was designed by Oak Park architect E.E. Roberts

“Many do not know that this school is believed to be the very highest development of suburban school work,” noted the Oak Leaves in 1911. The design was enough to impress the school board of Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada, and Roberts was commissioned to design a similar school for them

But McConnell said the new structure was built just seven years later as a way to modernize it.

The historical booth also promoted one of the more famous graduates of Washington Irving School, former White Sox player Marv Staehle.

Along with the articles were old artifacts, including a blackboard globe from from around the same time in which students could draw the continents for practice. One woman brought in a brick from the original school for display.

“You can just see how interested people are in all this stuff,” said McConnell. “And the kids are fascinated too.”

Principal John Hodge said teachers tied the centennial event into the curriculum, something the students greatly enjoyed.

Julie Nilson Chyna April 18, 2011 at 03:29 PM
Thanks for the writeup on the best elementary school in Oak Park! :) (P.S. The address is *1125* S. Cuyler, not 1125.)
Lori McConnell April 18, 2011 at 05:55 PM
Great write-up - it was such a fun event. Speaking with so many alumni really made the past come alive. One note, the school was ADDED to in 1918, again in 1931, but the original 1910/11 building was not demolished until the late 1950s, when another new addition was put on.
Casey Cora (Editor) April 18, 2011 at 09:30 PM
Thanks for the feedback! We've corrected the address and removed the inaccuracy.

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