Prairie Crossing Charter School Buildings

Wright Schoolhouse

The first building of the Prairie Crossing Charter School was the Wright Schoolhouse. Originally a one-room schoolhouse in Libertyville Township, it stood for many years on the south side of Casey Road west of Almond Road, where huge lilacs still bloom in the spring. It is named for Silas Wright, owner of the land and an elected school director in 1873. Other members of the Wright family served as trustees of the Libertyville School District through the early 1900s.

After the school closed, the building served as a residence until its owner decided to demolish it to make room for a larger house. The Schoolhouse was moved to its present site at Prairie Crossing, where architect Walker Johnson restored and redesigned it. When it was finished, local residents who had attended the school were invited to a reunion. More than forty people from all over the country came and recalled how the teachers had boarded with local families and what it was like to learn in one room with children of all ages.

Johnson added a lower floor, which allowed the schoolhouse to accommodate the Prairie Crossing Charter School’s first students in kindergarten, first and second grades. As the school grew, more buildings were added. Today the Wright Schoolhouse is the school’s Victoria Post Ranney Environmental Library.

Kennicott Building

The next building for the Charter School was the Kennicott Building, initially used for classrooms and later for administration. It is named for Dr. John Kennicott (1802-1863) and his son Robert Kennicott (1835-1866), early Illinois naturalists who lived at The Grove, now a National Historic Landmark in Glenview. Their careful collections and records of plants, animals and fossils were published in the earliest scientific journals in the state. They saw the environment not as a hostile force to be subdued, but a balanced web of interconnections in which man must intrude gently, or at least with forethought. They strongly encouraged farmers to study science and not squander their soil, water and wildlife blindly.

Sources: Edward Valuskas, Curator of Rare Books at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and James Tober, author of Who Owns the Wildlife?

The Kennicott Building was designed by Nagle Hartray Architecture, designers for over a hundred houses for Prairie Crossing. Jim Nagle, Dirk Danker and Don McKay participated.

Comstock Building

William Sturm, co-founder and principal of Serena Sturm Architects, designed the three most recent buildings for the Charter School: two classroom buildings, (the Comstock Building, which is LEED-certified, and the Carson Building) and the Gymnasium. He used sustainable materials and strategies to make them highly energy-efficient. They derive heat and cooling from a geo-thermal field between the two classroom buildings.

The Comstock Building (top left) is named for Anna Botsford Comstock (1854 – 1930), who was an illustrator, writer and educator noted for her extensive work in nature study. Throughout her marriage to John Henry Comstock, a Cornell professor of entomology and chief entomologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, she illustrated his lectures and publications on insects. She received a degree in natural history from Cornell University in 1885 and became its first female professor. She wrote and Illustrated The Handbook of Nature Study, which became a standard textbook for teachers in eight languages, with over twenty printings. Significantly for the Charter School, she was one of the first educators to bring students outdoors to study nature.

Carson Building

The Carson Building (top right) was named for the writer and ecologist Rachel Carson (1907-1964).  Starting work in her twenties with the U.S. Fisheries Department, she became Editor-in-Chief of publications for the U.S. Wildlife Service. She published The Sea Around Us in 1952 and The Edge of the Sea in 1955. Perhaps her most famous book was Silent Spring (1962), which revealed to the public the destruction caused by synthetic pesticides. Attacked by the chemical industry, she stood her ground and testified before Congress. Ultimately, Rachel Carson changed the way our society regards not only pesticides, but also the environment as a whole.