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School’s Out Forever: The Story of the Schools of Yesteryear

School board meetings about possible expansions to schools, parents complaining about the school’s curriculum and kids …passing the ladle to refill the school’s water bucket? As the 2016 school year comes to a close, we’ll begin a multi-part look at schools whose doors have sadly been closed permanently. For this first installment, we will look at two schools in particular: Bush School and Butterfield School.

Bush school, located on the east side of Bush Road (now Butterfield Road) opened its doors to its first class in early 1861. The only teacher for that first term was Miss Jeanette Simpson, who received $8 per month, in addition to being “boarded ‘round”. The majority of the pupils came from farming communities, so the school year consisted of two terms of three months each to enable students to help their parents with farm work. The school itself was a single room, meaning that Miss Simpson’s lessons had to cover material for children ranging from kindergarten to early middle school.

In 1915, an addition of nine feet was added to the school to comply with state law. The original single room schoolhouse was torn down in 1956, and a newer four room (!) school was erected on the same location.

However, the school’s glory days were behind it. Bush School was for a short time used by the Special Education District of Lake County until the site was bought by Timothy Towne in 1986, for $119,000. The site is now home to the Word of Faith Community Church.

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The next stop on our tour of the schools of yesteryear is Butterfield School, named for the Seamens Butterfield family, who owned the farm where the school was built.

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Mr. Charles Butterfield (March 23, 1848 – April 15, 1934) – son of Seamons Butterfield

Originally located off Butterfield Road near Allanson Road, the first term of Butterfield was in 1866, under the direction of Miss Sarah Jewel. Miss Jewel received $15 a month and boarded at the house of each of her pupils for one week at a time. Between 1867 to 1890, Miss Jewel was followed by other teachers, including Miss Paddock, Miss Celia Clark, and Miss B. Allard.

The day to day activities of Butterfield School students some 150 years ago were a bit different than those of students today. As you would expect, since the school had no running water, students drank from a water pail that was kept in the south-west corner of the room. And it’s generally known that the majority of lessons were oral with students learning the three R’s by rote. However, you might be surprised to learn that students went hunting for rabbits at recess and brought back their kills to show off to other students! This being “before the days of baseball” according to one former student, the games the students played included “crack the whip” and “Anti-Over”.

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A bit larger than the original one-room schoolhouse isn’t it?

Unlike Bush School, Butterfield School is still around, although the present school has almost nothing to do with the original. In 1926, Butterfield was consolidated along with two other schools to form what is now Hawthorn Intermediate School. However, that would not be the last Butterfield School in Libertyville. In 1969, a new Butterfield School was erected, and after the usual building delays, opened in 1970, and became well known for its open-space design and its early adoption of television, filmstrips, and other technologies to supplement the more traditional curriculum. The school, now greatly expanded, is still there, home to some 500 students and meeting 30% of its energy needs through the use of solar panels.

I hope you enjoyed this little peek at what school life in the mid-1800s was like. In the fall, we’ll take a look at two other area schools from days gone by that have closed their doors for good: Oak Grove and Rondout.

An Aerial View of Solar Panels at Butterfield  Elementary School in Libertyville. February 12, 2014. Libertyville District 70, Libertyville, IL. Accessed May 9, 2016.


“Chas. Butterfield, Old Resident of County, Succumbs.” Libertyville Independent Register, April 19, 1934, sec. 1. Microform.


Cizek, Carl. New Bush School. August 8, 2007. Carl Cizek Photograph Album, Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society, Libertyville, IL. Accessed May 9, 2016.


Cizek, Carl. Old Bush School. August 8, 2007. Carl Cizek Photograph Album, Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society, Libertyville, IL. Accessed May 9, 2016.


Kollman, Robin S. “District 70 To Become Largest Solar-Powered Elementary District in State.” Libertyville Patch, June 9, 2014. Accessed May 9, 2016.


Schneider, Elsie, and Paul Pfanninistill. 1918 School Histories – Libertyville Township – Butterfield School. 2003.0.33. 1918. MS, Lake County Materials, Lake County Discovery Museum, Libertyville.


Thompson, William L. What Ever Happened to the Old School House? : A Record of Transactions 1900-1990. Waukegan, Ill.: Office of Regional Supt. of Schools, Lake County, 1991.








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