Saving part of Higbee School: 'It would be something to benefit the whole community'

Posted: Sep. 6, 2014 3:58 pm Updated: Sep. 27, 2014 5:15 pm
Herald-Whig Staff Writer

PITTSFIELD, Ill. -- Two Pittsfield men want to make sure that Higbee School, while gone, will never be forgotten.

Bob Evans and Lloyd Lawber hope to save some pieces of the historic building, now being demolished, to create a memorial.

"If we could get some people to donate some money toward it, I think we can make it happen," said Evans, president of the Pike County Historical Society. "It would be something to benefit the whole community, a really neat deal."

Plans call for creating the memorial at the intersection of Jefferson and Jackson streets, on a vacant city-owned lot which would be donated to the historical society.

The City Council and the historical society's board still need to approve the plan. "Right now they're in the talking stages to see if it's even a possibility," City Clerk Cindy Prentice said.

Evans and Lawber hope to buy the building's columns, the limestone decoration off the front of the building and the limestone blocks reading "Chauncey Higbee" to incorporate into the proposed memorial park.

"It would be like a little park," Evans said. "It would have brick out of the building, the columns, some benches, lots of flowers, the Chauncey Higbee logo."

Evans estimates the building materials could be purchased for around $3,000 with the memorial costing another $3,000 to $5,000.

"We're talking roughly $10,000 to do this," Evans said.

Architect Theodore Kistner, who became prominent later in California, built only two school buildings in Illinois -- Higbee and Edwardsville High School. Kistner was known for using high end materials and incorporated Italian influences in his design for Higbee, which was built in 1908 as a high school and dedicated on March 24, 1909. The building got its name when Mrs. Julia Higbee donated money for the school in memory of her husband, attorney and long-time judge Chauncey L. Higbee.

The building was used as a junior high beginning in 1955, and its last eighth grade class graduated in 1996. The Pikeland School District sold the building in January 1997 after Pikeland Community School opened to serve grades 3-8.

The building housed a community recreational facility and was used for storage. Plans announced in late 2008 called for a $2 million renovation project to convert the historic building into specialty shops, a restaurant, lodging, banquet facility and 24-hour fitness center but did not materialize, leaving the building empty and deteriorating.

The historical society, Pittsfield Main Street and other community groups joined forces in spring 2013 in hopes of saving the building, but were unsuccessful. Demolition work began this spring.

"It was one of the most unique buildings in Pike County, but it got in such bad shape, it wasn't feasible to try to save it," Evans said. "It would have cost a fortune."



Contributions marked for “Higbee preservation” may be mailed to the Pike County Historical Society, P.O. Box 44, Pittsfield, IL 62363.

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