LITTLE SCHOOL MUSEUM
THE LITTLE SCHOOL MUSEUM
A tour can be arranged by contacting me.
Email or calling 815-822-4951
It is one of very few school museums located in Illinois. We are located in Chatsworth, Illinois in the CAPS PARK on First Street. We are @ 45 miles NE from Bloomington (I-55) and @ 45 miles NW of Champaign (I-57).
Group Tours can be arranged by calling the Chatsworth Historical Society at 815-822-4951.
You will step back in time when you enter the school with all of its little desks, the teachers desk and blackboards. It holds lots of school memorabilia and local memorabilia from days of yore.
Other attractions in the park are the swimming pool, CAPS barn, which can be rented for reunions or parties, an open pavilion , which can be rented for picnics, a playground area and our CAPS Ballfield.
See pictures of the school here.
The History of the Little School Museum
The Little School Museum has a long history. Its life was started as the first schoolhouse built in Chatsworth Township and the village. It was built in 1858 on two lots that were donated by William Osborn, specifically for the purpose of a school. The location was on what is now Ash Street, on the north side, between what is now Fourth and Fifth Streets.
Before that school was held in one room , on the second floor, of the McGulliver Store, where the west end of the Moore Hardware Store is (as of 2008), according to L.J. Haberkorn.
Classes were also held in a two-story house west of what was the Culkin Funeral Home ,according to Mrs. Stoutemyer. When the classes started over-flowing, the new little school was built.
After the new large wooden school was built in 1870, the little school was moved one mile east of town, and became known as the "Beet School", being attended mostly by the children of the workers of the beet factory, but also by others who lived in the area. According to L.J. Haberkorn, it was still in use yet in 1942.
In 1876, high school was added to the original large public school, with the first graduating class being in 1881. When this school became over-crowed, in 1922, a new brick high school was built on the south-end of what is now Sixth Street. When the wooden grade school building became over-crowed again in the 1950's , the 6th, 7th and 8th grades were held in the new brick high school. This wooden school was razed in 1960, after the building of the new elementary school, on south Fifth Street . What a great loss! I remember the scary winding spiral staircase to the second, or was it the third floor. The outside fire-escapes on the north and south sides of the building, which became a fine ride when you used wax-paper under you to speed it up!!! We had swings, rings and bars, slides and the unforgettable "merry-go-round". The teachers hand-ringing the "recess" and "it's time for school" bell. But most of all, with the restrooms in the basement and also the janitors room, there was always time to talk to our favorite janitors, Mr. Hanna and Mr. Curtis.
The new brick school was razed in 1985/86, with the last graduating class being in 1985. I remember this school well also. The "old gym", which was turned into the lunch room after the building of the new gym, where as grade schoolers, we were allowed to put on little plays. And the new "big" gym, with a stage that was awesome ! -to us as youngsters anyway. Later, being able to watch the baseball playoffs and other sports events on TV in the gym. And attending football games, especially "Homecoming", in November, in my fuzzy earmuffs and usually in the first snow of the new winter season !
The idea of restoring the "Beet School" was started in 1958 by the PTA members, on what would have been the centennial year of the school. They wanted the school painted white. After the 100th anniversary of Chatsworth in 1967 and the forming of the CAPS committee, lots of fund raising projects were held to raise money for this, such as all proceeds from Mrs. Stoutemyer's book. On April 14, 1971, the "Beet School" was moved to its present location. It was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Glen Dehm, as it was on their property. It was moved by Harvey Peters of Farmer City. George Augsburger and Jim Kessinger shingled it. In 1972, it was painted red by Richard Dohman's paint crew, with Francis and Wayne Dohman assisting. In 1975 the Lion's Club assisted with the interior work, which had been started by Rev. Fox. The Women's Club cleaned . In other words it was very much a community effort, spear-headed by Mrs. Stoutemyer and her committee.
Name: Caps Recreation Center
As of 2009, the school has been sided white .This is from a February 2009 , The Bugle
And yes, at one time it was painted red !!
Sources:The History of Livingston County, Illinois
Published by W. Le Baron, 1878
History of Chatsworth, Illinois
By L.J. Haberkorn
Sands of Time-150 Years Around Chatsworth, Illinois
By Helen Louise Plaster Stoutemyer
Published by HLPN Publishing