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Taft History

Taft School District 90 is located in Lockport, Illinois. Lockport is located 25 miles southwest of Chicago and 5 miles north of Joliet, the county seat of Will County.



South School The district is a one-school K-8 district, rich in local history and tradition. Taft School District has a deep history dating back to the 1870's when it first built as the South Lockport Grade School (or South School).

During the Great Depression of the 1930's, a gym/auditorium was erected as an addition to the original structure. The facade of this building, completed in 1938, was very ornate and included many architectural features. In 1959, a third addition to the building added twelve more classrooms.
South Lockport Grade School (Click the above photo to view a larger image).
1917 3rd Grade Class in 1919
Ruth O'Herstrom's first grade class at Taft in 1917. 
(Click the above photo to view a larger image).
Amelia Hyland's 3rd Grade Class at Taft School in 1919.
(Click the above photo to view a larger image).
Class in 1920 Taft School in 1923
Students in a Taft School classroom (in the 1909 building) circa 1920.
(Click the above photo to view a larger image).
Taft, as it looked in 1923
(Click the above photo to view a larger image).

From the 1980's through the early 1990's, the original 1909 building was closed. In 1995, the 1909 building was reopened, housing four classes. In 1997, a capital improvement grant from the State of Illinois enabled Taft to renovate the building and grounds. During the renovation, the entire building was cabled for closed circuit and cable TV, and category 7 cable was run to all rooms.


An Article by Diannaha Tielbur on Taft History

"Taft History" was originally written in 1997 by Diannaha Tielbur as a 4-H Citizenship Project. Diannaha was a Taft student from 1989 through 1997.

Taft Grade School was originally known as "South Lockport School". The earliest records we have are 1888, however it is thought to have been started much earlier. It is believed that South Lockport School started out as an un-graded school house, as were all the elementary school houses in the Lockport area. The Lockport High School was the only graded school. However, by 1888, the Directors' Annual Report indicates that South Lockport was now being a graded school. This report also shows the enrollment as 40 males and 28 females being taught by two female teachers.

In 1888 South Lockport School was a one story frame building. The estimated value of school property including lots, building, and furniture, was $11,000.00.

That year a tax levy for all school purposes was issued in the amount of $400.00 for the school year ending in 1890. The school bought and now had three volumes of books in their library at a total estimated value of $12.00.

On April 15, 1893, the Board discussed enlarging the school house. The current rooms were not large enough to accommodate the pupils in the district. A vote was called for and carried for the improvements. The Board of Directors were instructed to raise the roof of the school house and put up another story, making the school house a two story building with four rooms in the center of the building.

On July 19, 1893, the Board called a special meeting to vote on issuing bonds to raise money to pay for improvements and buying furniture for one room. A motion was made and carried to issue bonds of equal amounts and in four payments. A motion was also made and a vote called for and carried that the Directors should use their own judgment in regard to stripping old siding off the lower part of the school house and have it sheathed, papered and new siding put on with new casing and boards.

On August 5, 1893, a special meeting was called for the purpose of voting for or against the proposition of issuing bonds of said School District #9, to the amount of $1,605.00 due August 1, 1894, August 1, 1895, August 1, 1896, and August 1, 1897. The payments to be made were in the amounts as follows: Bond#1-$405.00; Bond#2-$400.00, Bond#3-$400.00, Bond#4-$400.00 (with interest at 6% per annum payable annually).

Fourteen people voted in favor and none against. The bonds were issued and additions to the school were made.

On August 28, 1889, the contracts for two teachers were signed, one for a term of 6 school months commencing on September 2, 1889. The teacher, Edward Worst, would receive $40 per school month. The other was for Mary Norton. She would receive $20 per school month.

By the end of the 1893-94 school year, South Lockport School employed three teacher, and Edward Worst received $60 per school month.

Dora Mitchell received $27 per school month, and Anna Fitzgerald received $37 per school month.

After having made the improvements on the school, the estimated value of school property including lot, building and furniture was now $2,200 and the estimated value of the school library was $60.

By the end of the 1893-94 school year, enrollment had jumped from 68 students in 1888 to 174. (100 males, 74 females.) Due to steady growth by 1905, the board appointed a committee to consider the purchase of property for a school site and the price and means by which money can be obtained.

It wasn't until April, 1909, that the board was able to act. It was at this time that a special session was held and a motion made and carried to call for a special election to vote on the following propositions:

  • The proposition of purchasing a new district school site.
  • The proposition to build a new district school building.
  • The proposition to bond the school district, to secure funds, to pay for the new district school site, and for payment for a new district school building.

The special election was held at the district school at the corner of Washington and 17th Street in South Lockport on the 8th day of May, 1909. The results of the election were: 

For the purchasing of a new school site...89
Against the purchasing of a new school site...2

For building a new school...88
Against building a new school...3

For the issuing of bonds...73
Against issuing of bonds...18

The Directors of the School District 90 issued the negotiable coupon bonds to the total amount of $14,500. The bonds were to bear the date of June 1, 1909, and became due and payable as follows:

$500 - 6/1/1914, $500-6/1/1915, $500-6/1/1916, $500-6/1/1917, $500-6/1/1918, $1000-6/1/1919, $1000-6/1/1920, $1000-6/1/1921, $1000-6/1/1922, $1000-6/1/1923, $1000-6/1/1924, $2000-6/1/1925, $2000-6/1/1926, $2000-6/1/1927.

The bonds were to be in denominations of $500 each and were to bear interest at the rate of 5% annum. Payable semi-annually on the 1st day of December and June in each year.

Architectural bids were submitted and the proposal and sketches submitted by Mr. Boeme of Joliet were accepted after being studied and a few changes made. Mrs. Boeme declared that he would be willing to furnish all the architectural services necessary for the reaction and completion of the school building for $200. Public notices were posted on July 7, 1909. For sealed proposals for the purchase of a dwelling house, a barn, a closet, and a coal shed and the old fence all located on a new school site known as the Corcoran property. On July 24th, the directors met a W.W. North's Law Office to open bids. Having received no bids, the board concluded to dispose of building to the best advantage.

On July 14, 1909, the board met at W.W. North's Law Office regarding the land for the new school. The land was owned by James Corcoran and his wife. Mrs. and Mrs. Corcoran agreed to pay the taxes levied against the property for the year 1909 and to give a warranty deed upon the paying of $5000 by the board to James Corcoran.  

On July 19, 1909, the School board met a City Hall in regards to connecting the new school to city water. They were given a set of resolutions by the city council that they must agree upon. On August 2, 1909, after the resolutions were read, a motion was made and seconded that they be adopted. The motion was carried.  

On July 24, 1909, the board of directors met at the office of W.W. North to receive bids and award the contract for the new school. All bids were considered too high, and the meeting was adjourned. Three days later, the board met again to take some action on the bids. The following reductions were agreed to by the board of directors:

  • The second story brick wall was to be cut down from 17 inches to 13 inches.
  • Gravel roof instead of carry roofing.
  • Elective wiring omitted.
  • Prisms windows to be set in lead instead of copper.
  • 3 school rooms and 3 cloak rooms left unfinished.
  • Windows in rear to be arched instead of Bedford caps.

The lowest bidder was given the opportunity to submit a new bid on the reduction, and in case his bid did not prove satisfactory, the next lowest bidder, and so on in rotation. Finally, on July 29, 1909, after having a bid from Mr. Peterson, from the firm Hanson and Peterson, in the amount of $16,986. The board moved, seconded and unanimously ordered to award the contract to Hanson and Peterson.

Also on this day, the old fence on the school site was sold to Ed Young for $12. The barn on new school site sold to Joseph Johnson for $75.

On August 28, 1909, the board received bids on heating and plumbing. On September 4th, the contract was awarded to Miller and Landon for $1,110.98.

On September 1, 1909 at 2:00 pm, the corner stone of the new school was laid. Remarks were made by County Superintendent Nivens, W.S. Norton, Professor Swapp, and Reverend Benton. There was singing by the school children and prayer by Reverend Benton.

Deposited in the stone were the names of the contractors, architects, the County Superintendent, the teachers and the Directors. One copy of the Lockport newspaper, sample ballots for elections held in connection with the new school, some pennies and nickels, a picture of Mr. Lundahl, a picture of school children taken some years before, and a picture of the old school house.

On September 6, 1909, the old dwelling house on the new school site was sold to Henry Ostrom for $70. Mr. Ostrem paid $5 down and that balance was to be paid before the house was moved away. The old coal shed on the new school site was sold on January 6, 1910 for $15, and the old pumps were sold for $1.50 to Henry Ostrem. The fourth room stove was sold on January 11 to the Gas Company for $4. The third room stove sold on January 8 to Victor Swanson for $3. The second room stove also sold on January 8 to George H. Lamphere for $3 and the first room stove sold on January 15 to the Sims Brothers for $4.

At a special meeting on March 29, 1911, it was announced that School Laws of Illinois would read as follows: In all school districts having a population of not less than 1,000 and not over 10,000 inhabitants and not governed by any special act in relation to free school now in force, there shall be elected, instead of the directors provided by law in other districts, a board of education, to consist of a president of the board of education, six members and three additional members for every additional 10,000 inhabitants.

A general census of all ages in School District 90 taken on July 1, 1910, shows that the population exceeds 1,000 inhabitants. It was therefore ordained and unanimously ordered that a board of education be elected instead of a board of directors.

On April 15, 1911, the legal voters of District 90 met for the purpose of electing a Board of Education consisting of a President and six members.

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