Lincoln School’s Evolution
What is now known as Lincoln School was originally built as Niles Center Public School. In December 1927, the Chicago Tribune reported that a new grammar school was to be constructed on land recently acquired from the Cook County Forest Preserve on Lincoln Avenue, just to the main business and residential district of the town. The firm chosen to design the new school was Hyland & Corse, who provided a design in the English Collegiate Gothic style of twelve classrooms arranged in a U-configuration around a central gymnasium/assembly hall space which includes a stage. The school was designed to accommodate 480 students with 40 students to a classroom, with a capacity of 500 in the assembly hall. The building ended up being built at half the capacity of the plans, with only six classrooms constructed around the gymnasium/assembly hall. Four classrooms were contained in the front section parallel to Lincoln Avenue, and two first-floor classrooms on the sides of the gym. The school opened with 202 students on September 4, 1928.
By the following school year, the size of the new school was considered a handicap as enrollment had reached nearly 300 students, necessitating seventh- and eighth-grade classes to be held in the gymnasium, negating the space’s original purpose and causing Physical Education classes to be held outdoors in the playground. Kindergarten enrollment had grown to over 40 pupils, much greater than had been anticipated as the Board of Education had reduced the age requirement to 4 ½. This enrollment necessitated dividing the kindergarten program to two sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. At a special meeting of the school board held on July 1, 1929, the board authorized a new addition to be built by Sweiberg & Swartz, contractors, in a form satisfactory to the architect. Presumably, the original, larger plans of Hyland & Corse were being used for the new work. Four additional classrooms were added and were ready for occupancy by November 1929. Three classrooms were for upper grades, and one was specifically built for the Kindergarten. The new Kindergarten room attracted particular attention, as it “incorporated the latest ideas in design, construction, decoration and furnishings.” An expert from the Art Institute of Chicago was consulted for the room’s wall and ceiling designs, and “attracted wide attention in kindergarten teaching circles.” The newest addition was dedicated on February 18, 1930 to a great fanfare which included remarks by Francis G. Blair, state superintendent of public instruction of Illinois, live music, a program of recognition in honor of past School Board President William L. Galitz and several long-standing teachers, and tours by students showcasing the school and their activities.
The expanded facility once again proved inadequate in short order. By the summer of 1931, a bond issue for $58,000 was approved by the village electorate to construct yet another addition, this time to incorporate a new kindergarten, remodeled gym/auditorium including a stage and locker and shower rooms, a new cafeteria, and six additional grade and class rooms. Part of this expansion was to accommodate a new, two-year high school program in the building in addition to the classes already in place there. The new high school curriculum included instruction in English, Latin, Algebra, General Science, Shop/Mechanical Drawing, and Household Arts. To design the new additions, the school board engaged architect Godfrey E. Larson. Godfrey E. Larson was at the time serving as the building commissioner for Niles Center.
Larson designed the new additions to blend skillfully with the previous work of Hyland & Corse. This scheme includes the two front-facing wings with first-floor bays which have become a hallmark of the school. These wings housed six classrooms in the basement, first floor, and second floor. Also added were the remaining three classrooms flanking the gym, completing Hyland & Corse’s original scheme, and new, ornate stair tower entries on either side of the building. The remodeled school now included classrooms for sewing, art, music and manual instruction shop, but once again, the new kindergarten and low first-grade rooms were the most admired spaces. Housed in the new first-floor room at the southeast and southwest corners of the school. These alcove rooms were noted as being “resplendent with their built-in seats for reading and story-telling classes, …finished in two shades of green” and with oak furniture. The kindergarten also included a private terrace with a wall fountain and sand boxes, entered from a private door. Other classrooms were finished in two shades of brown and stained woodwork with furniture appropriate to the use of the classroom. The new cafeteria offered a hot lunch program.
Enrollment was anticipated to be 550 in the completed school, and in December 1931 showed over 60 kindergartners, 150 pupils in the primary grades, intermediate grades of Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth of 110 pupils, the junior high of Seventh and Eighth having 60 pupils, and 50 pupils in the high school for a total of 430 students housed in the building. The new addition was opened for the second term of high school work, on February 1, 1932, and was considered to be one of the most outstanding two-year high schools in the state. The expanded facilities allowed the district eliminate the half-day sessions for the first and second grades, as the building could now accommodate all-day learning. The temporary classrooms in the gymnasium were removed, and the space again used for its intended purpose. As part of this addition and remodeling, the name “Lincoln School” was carved in the stone arch over the main entrance.
In December of 1933, architect Emerson E. Raymond was engaged to work on proposed improvements to the building. Funds totaling $21,086.66 were awarded by the Civil Works Administration which remodeled the gymnasium/assembly hall and excavated and add a basement with cement floor beneath the gymnasium. The gymnasium finally received its enduring physical incarnation. The space was formalized with glazed tile lower walls, varnished plywood paneling above, an painted allegorical frieze, and beamed ceiling. The frieze and ceiling of the gymnasium are the most significant historic design features of the gymnasium. Painted by a local artist, panels in the frieze depicted scenes from Niles Center’s history such as historic buildings such as the village’s first fire hall and the old District #7 school on Niles Center Road, historic sites including the Oakton-Lincoln corner in early days and the toll gate on Lincoln Avenue, and village activities such as horticulture, art, and music. The new gym and basement spaces were dedicated with a dedicatory address and live music on February 7, 1935.
With the completion of the 1932-1935 improvements, the school remained in this form until by 1950, increased enrollment required a larger building once more. In March 1951, a referendum was held to approve an addition to Lincoln School anticipated to cost $490,000, and after approval architect Alfred F. Allen was appointed as architect for the expansion. This addition expanded the building to the north of the existing classrooms and gymnasium, elongating the T-form of the plan. The enlargement included twelve new classrooms, a cafeteria annex, manual training shop, large library at the north end, and a room designed for local civic organizations. At the same time, the older sections of the school were modernized with the addition of updated lighting classroom remodeling, and the redesign of the home economics room and the school’s business offices and health service room. The new addition was dedicated on November 9, 1952, again with dedicatory addresses and live music. The design of the 1952 addition references but updates the previous decorative schemes by Hyland & Corse and Godfrey E. Larson. The new brick was matched to the old, and windows and doors are trimmed in the same Indiana limestone. The windows in the new additions are wider than the historic models, arranged as horizontal ribbons rather than vertical stacks with the exception of a group of five vertical-stacks near the center of the east and west facades. Door surrounds are in a very simplified Gothic design, and a wide, three-sided bay rises the entire height of the north façade. The design is clearly of-its-time while respecting the historic design of the building.
In January 1960, a special referendum was held to approve building a new school and making alterations to Lincoln School. The referendum passed, and Lincoln gained new music rooms and locker rooms, and a new gymnasium built on the southeast corner of the building by December of that year. That gymnasium was demolished in 2019.
The last large-scale alteration to Lincoln School was completed in 2004: an addition at the northeast corner of the building, designed by ARCON Associates, Inc. The design of this addition consciously references the design of the older sections of the school, specifically the 1952 addition. This section includes seven general classrooms, a science room, a technical education room, offices, restrooms, and mechanicals.
In 2014, a glass front vestibule was added, designed by Green & Associates. While only a single-story box at the center of the front façade, it altered the building’s traffic flow by diverting the principal entrance to the southwest corner of the building, and adding an office vestibule and altered stairs into the interior.
 “Niles Center to Build Another Grade School,” Chicago Tribune, December 12, 1926.
 “xxx,” Greater Niles Center News, August 24, 1928, 1.
 “Niles Center Public School,” The (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald, September 17, 1929.
 (Coninx, op.cit.p. 6).
 “Dedicate New School Tuesday,” Greater Niles Center News, February 14, 1930.
 “New School Building is Dedicated,” The (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald, February 21, 1930.
 “Niles Center School to Build Addition,” The Daily Herald, June 5, 1931.
 “Lincoln Public School,” The Daily Herald, September 11, 1931.
 School board minutes
 “Enlarging Lincoln School, Niles Center,” Chicago Tribune, October 4, 1931.
 “Lincoln’s New Addition is in Full Use,” The Daily Herald, February 19, 1932.
 “Wonderful Work at Lincoln School in Niles Center,” The Daily Herald, December 18, 1931.
 “Lincoln High Offers Larger Facilities,” The Daily Herald, January 22, 1932.
 “Dedicate New Auditorium Thursday,” The Niles Center News, February 7, 1935.
 Ardis Coninx, notes, November 18, 2011.
 “Dedicate New Auditorium.”
 “Dedicate New Skokie School Addition Today,” The Chicago Tribune, November 9, 1952.