Joliet Junior College student Tammy Barnes didn’t know what the little white building in the middle of JJC’s Main Campus was used for. Located in the wooded grove northwest of the Campus Center, the 18-foot structure had no sign or identification.
But her thoughts on the building would soon change. When she became a student worker for Alumni Relations, her job centered on it – the one-room “Cronin Schoolhouse,” originally built in 1863.
Barnes found herself coordinating elementary school field trips to the schoolhouse, and as she talked to volunteer speakers – some of whom had been students there themselves – she began to grow fond of the building.
Barnes grew so passionate about the schoolhouse that she wanted to give it the attention it deserved, as well as preserve its authenticity. In early 2013, she applied for local landmark status with the Will County Historic Preservation Commission.
After a lot of paperwork, the Cronin Schoolhouse was officially named a local landmark on Tuesday, May 7 at a Joliet City Council meeting. The Will County Historic Preservation Commission also gave the schoolhouse its annual preservation award.
“I think it’s an honor to be recognized for the work that’s been done on the schoolhouse,” said Kristi Mulvey, executive director of Resource Development at JJC. “It’s a great living history museum.”
Barnes and Mulvey are now in the process of bringing in a sign for the school.
The schoolhouse, which was originally located at Route 59 and Black Road, made its way to JJC in 1987, after two agriculture professors, Jim Shinn and Dave Cattron, had the vision of bringing a one-room schoolhouse to campus for elementary school field trips.
At that time, the schoolhouse belonged to the Larkin family. After hearing about JJC’s interest, Ed Larkin donated the schoolhouse to the college. In 1991, the first elementary school students took a field trip to the Cronin Schoolhouse.
The 150-year-old building catered to children in grades one through eight from 1863 until 1950. It was not uncommon for many of the students to be related to each other. One teacher taught all grade levels, spending ten minutes teaching each one, on rotation. Certain classes, such as art, could be taught to the students as a whole.
The schoolhouse was originally located on John Cronin’s land, before the property was sold to the Larkins. According to his great-grandson and one-time student of the school, John Cronin, the highlights of the year were always the Christmas party and end-of-the-year picnic.
In 1950, the Cronin School was joined with the new Troy Consolidated District 30C. The Larkins sold all the schoolhouse items and rented the building to families as a home before it was donated to JJC.
JJC is currently seeking volunteers to give tours of the Cronin Schoolhouse. If interested, call Mulvey at 815-280-2353, or Barnes at 815-280-6780.