The exterior of Hawthorne School after the renovation/expansion that provided more space and modernized the teaching environment.
At 121 years, Hawthorne School is the oldest elementary school building in the Elmhurst, Ill., school district and a source of pride for the community. Unfortunately, decades of modifications and short-sighted planning had rendered it dysfunctional in terms of modern educational delivery. At the same time, increasing enrollment was leading to overcrowding, with the result that the library, for example, had to be converted into classrooms and moved into a mobile unit.
In early 2006, the school board, rather than build new, decided to regenerate the aged but much-loved structure by adding new classrooms and bringing the existing facility up to snuff at a cost of $13.5 million. The Building Team—including architect Wight & Company, Darien, Ill., and general contractor James McHugh Construction, Chicago—was charged with modernizing the building while preserving its historical integrity and character, and to do so within a 17-month period.
The Building Team focused primarily on changes to the interior, while also painstakingly matching and replacing the brick in the gothic exterior. A two-story classroom addition was added, but the main west-facing façade, the historic front of the school that overlooks a nearby public park, was restored intact. Adding new classrooms allowed the library and music classroom spaces to be restored to their original spaces with modern lighting and acoustics. One exterior improvement created new parking space and also fixed a longstanding stormwater runoff problem. Providing a gravel-filled basin below a permeable paved parking lot created a filtration medium for controlling about half of the roof and site stormwater runoff, as well as adding parking to the school. —Jeffrey Yoders, Senior Associate Editor