Cencula’s mission: Hawthorn School history
Updated: July 2, 2012 8:25AM
Last week we met Karen Cencula, soon to retire from Hawthorn District 73 after a lifelong association that began for her as a second grade student in 1962.
One of her post-retirement missions is preserving and sharing Hawthorn history. Now, you may think that Hawthorn cannot possibly have the lineage of, say, Brainerd school building in Libertyville, but you’d be wrong. Although names and locations may have changed over the years, Karen has put together a historical picture of this area that goes just as far back. I asked her to send me some of that data and here is the story of Hawthorn, in Karen’s words.
“This is the background history I have been sharing with our students. I also created a presentation with pictures and yearbook pictures from when I went to Hawthorn School. The very first Hawthorn School was known as Locke School, named for John Locke, a farmer who donated land for the school. In about 1840, when this area was being settled, John Locke, a native of New Hampshire, purchased land south of Libertyville on the west side of what is now Milwaukee Avenue. Before World War I, Samuel Insull purchased a large tract of land south of Libertyville, which included Locke’s farm, extending to Townline Road (Rt. 60). Later, when Locke School became unusable, it was torn down and a new brick building was erected on Insull’s estate, known as Hawthorn Farm, hence the school name.
“The small building was located on the west side of Milwaukee Avenue, across from what is now Fifth Third Bank in Red Top Plaza. This building, which in later years was used for a residence, was torn down after the Cuneo property was sold in the 1990s. Hawthorn School was built mostly to educate the children of workers employed at Hawthorn Farm. In 1923, two other small rural schools, Coon School, built along what is now Rt. 45 and Butterfield School on Allanson Road, which served the southern part of Mundelein, joined Hawthorn to form Consolidated District 73. The original Hawthorn School, which started as a four-room school building, was dedicated in December 1924. In 1957, a two-story addition of ten classrooms, office space, music room and gymnasium were added to the original building.
“As more people moved into Vernon Hills, a large addition of eight classrooms, much larger office, teachers’ lounge and multi-purpose room were added to the front of the building in September 1970. Hawthorn remained a one-building school district until January 1975, when Hawthorn Junior High was opened. The original Hawthorn school was demolished in May 2004. Hawthorn Townline Elementary School now stands on the original Hawthorn School site.”
Karen shared with me her goal of archiving articles and information she has collected, now that she will have more time to devote to the project. In speaking of the Historical Museum, located in the Townline Elementary School, she says, “Hawthorn Townline Elementary was built upon the property of the original Hawthorn School building. The Hawthorn Preservation Committee identified and saved historical artifacts deemed valuable before the original building was demolished to make way for the new building. Room 106 at Townline is a functional classroom museum housing the artifacts and other documents of historical district significance.
“During demolition, the district re-discovered a national treasure in the original school. Covered up by ceiling tiles and half painted over during a redecoration project, a mural entitled “Children’s Stories”, commissioned in 1937 from the Illinois Art Project of the WPA, was identified. The art includes subjects from various fairy tales. The Committee felt the WPA painting would be the showcase of the museum. The mural has been restored and is on display in the historical museum.”
And I’ll bet you once believed that Vernon Hills/Hawthorn history began with Hawthorn Mall in the 1970s! Thanks, Karen, for sharing the unique history of the area. All the best for a happy retirement!
Send email to Pat Lenhoff at: firstname.lastname@example.org .