Today for our look back at St. Charles Schools we will be sharing the history of Lincoln Elementary and Haines Junior High. It might seem strange to combine the two, but their histories do overlap a bit.
The history of Lincoln Elementary School in St. Charles can be traced back to 1856. It was in that year that St. Charles built their second public school which was located on the east side of the river. Two years prior, in 1854, St. Charles built the West Side School, obviously located on the west side of town. The West Side School, besides being the first public school built in St. Charles was also the first public school built in the entire state of Illinois. St. Charles residents at the time could not have imagined a need for another new school so soon, but due to a number of upset parents on the east side a new one was built in just two short years. The contingent of upset parents felt that it was unfair to their students that the only public school was located all the way across the river, it was unfair that their students had to cross the bridge and walk all the way up a steep hill to get to class, and it was unfair that they didn’t have a school on their side of town, so St. Charles built a second public school.
For almost thirty years things ran smoothly, but by the late 1880’s a fierce rivalry between the two schools had formed. It was not uncommon to find students after school meeting on the Main Street Bridge to engage in fights with students from across town. Residents were afraid to cross the bridge after school let out, and parents didn’t like their students coming home beaten up after school everyday. The two was ready to split into two towns, with the River as the dividing line. A number of influential residents didn’t want to see that happen, so instead it was agreed that a new school was needed to combine all the older children and make them classmates instead of rivals. Charles Haines, a businessman and philanthropist, provided the land and money necessary to build the new school. It was built on the east side of town, on the corner of 7th Avenue and Main Street. The St. Charles High School, also known as the Charles Haines School, was built in 1897 and offered junior high school classes on one floor and high school classes on another floor. The plan worked! By combining the older students the fighting stopped and peace returned to the town.
The East Side and West Side Schools continued to operate as elementary schools. In 1928 the East Side School burned down and a new school was built in its place. The new school was built with bricks instead of wood, and a new name was chosen - Abraham Lincoln Elementary School. Today Lincoln is the oldest school building still in use as a school in town. Over the years new additions have been added but the charm and character of the old school still remain.
By the mid 1920’s the Haines School was overcrowded and a new High School was built on the west side of town (coincidentally on the corner of 7th Street and Main Street). When the new high school was built in 1926, the Haines School became a Junior High. Unfortunately by the mid 1950’s there were too many structural issues with the building and it was deemed unsafe for students. The building was sold and a new Haines Junior High was built near the High School on the west side. The old Haines was torn down and a strip mall took its place. Today Haines is one of three Middle Schools in St. Charles, along with Thompson (built in 1926 as the High School), and Wredling Middle School (built in 1995 originally as part of the St. Charles High School Campus on Dunham Road).