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Wrecking ball puts definitive end to Lindbergh school saga
By Ashok Selvam | Daily Herald Staff

The demolition of former one room Lindbergh School along Shoe Factory Road in Hoffman Estates started Monday morning.

 

Mark Black | Staff Photographer

Demolition crews on Monday tear through the western wall of the 78-year-old Lindbergh School in Hoffman Estates. The work should finish today.

 

Mark Black | Staff Photographer

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Published: 9/11/2007 1:16 AM

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The long fight to save the historic Lindbergh Schoolhouse in Hoffman Estates ended in dramatic fashion Monday morning when wrecking crews began tearing through its limestone walls.

The sight of the 78-year-old school being dismantled drew tears from preservationists but praise from neighbors.

Preservationists saw the schoolhouse as a landmark and the last signs of the village's rural history.

Some neighbors applauded the demise of the dilapidated school where teens spray-painted and chugged beer.

There were no vocal protests Monday, just a small crowd that peacefully gathered to watch the end of the saga spanning years with numerous stops and starts.

Demolition, which began despite preservationists' efforts over the weekend to get a court injunction to stop it, should wrap up today.

Hoffman Estates Trustee Raymond Kincaid was the only village board member present Monday, as crews began work at 9 a.m.

Six police cruisers flashed lights while helping to direct traffic. Kincaid, who opposed the demolition, was surprised by how quickly crews arrived after getting a village demolition permit earlier Monday morning.

"You can't blame the workers. They're only doing what they were told," he said.

The school was built in 1929 and named after famed aviator Charles Lindbergh. Construction took a little more than six months. It remained a school until 1948 and for a time after was used as a private residence. But it's been vacant and deteriorating since 1995.

Amid the barren stretch of cornfields and woods on Shoe Factory Road between Elgin and Hoffman Estates, the school became a legendary drawing point for teens looking for a thrill for the past 30 years, though the house was inhabited by a family briefly over that span.

Rumors spread that the site was haunted, and kids would pry open a window or the backdoor to enter.

In 1998, a deal was struck between the village, developers and trade unions to save the school. The plans never came to fruition.

Gene Oddo, a resident of the nearby Haverford Place subdivision, stood with a video camera outside the school, chronicling its final chapter. Haverford went up about four years ago, and residents put pressure on the village to take action as the school lapsed into disrepair.

"It's a relief," he said.

Oddo said Haverford will see a decrease in crime without the school drawing trespassers.

"It's a matter of safety," he said.

But Carol White, who lives in Elgin up the street from the school, said she doubts crime will be affected. She wanted to keep the school.

"It's a piece of history," she said. "I think we can learn from history; I just don't think we always do."

Monday, crews carefully tore out the school's bell tower and handed it over to Bob Tiballi. The Elgin pediatrician wanted to preserve the school and turn it into a children's memorial. He said he'll try to build his memorial elsewhere.

Terrestris Homes owns the lot and the school, and last week the village board approved a plan for 55 single-family homes for the site. In a separate vote last week, the board relinquished any responsibility for the school, thus effectively signing Lindbergh's death warrant.

Oddo suggested a memorial wall be built across the street from the school site and that the grassy area be renamed Lindbergh Park. Others suggested donating the building to the park district or creating a museum.

"I'm sure there's a lot of history there that you're sad to see go," Oddo said.

He appeared more reserved compared to some of his other neighbors, who cheered the school's destruction.

Motorists slowed as they drove past the school, some applauding, some shaking their heads in despair, and some even snapping their own photos.

Peter Lilliebridge was walking with his family in the area and stopped to watch crews.

They moved in February to Hoffman Estates and weren't familiar with the 12 years of village board discussion.

"It's not really historic to us," he said. "We just moved here."