History of Mt. Airy Schoolhouse
Momence's Little Red Schoolhouse began in 1853 as a Ganeer Township School, constructed by Kankakee County in the first year of its existence. This one room red brick schoolhouse was built on land donated by W.W. Parish, one of Ganeer Townships pioneers. Built for the purpose of furthering the education of the children of Kankakee County, it served as a school from 1853 until 1921. Because it was located in Mt. Airy Cemetery, it was used for memorial services even during the time it was being used as a school. After the school closed, it was used for storage until it fell into a state of disrepair.
In 1983, as the Momence Sesquicentennial approached, the Woman's Club chose to do something meaningful and of lasting value appropriate for the celebration. Because it is an organization of women, a project that would celebrate women as contributing citizens to this community was sought. They believed the perfect project for this group could be found in the restoration of the Little Red Schoolhouse. It was proposed to move the school from its Mt. Airy Cemetery home to a central location in the town of Momence to restore it in order to preserve its historical value.
After years of neglect and nonuse, the schoolhouse had gaping holes in the ceiling and floor, windows broken and boarded up, and a door that would neither close nor lock. During the excavation the walls were found to be three bricks thick. Therefore, it was determined to be structurally sound enough to withstand a move and worthy of repairing and restoring. Contractors and craftsmen were hired, a plan was devised, money was raised and permits were obtained to facilitate the move. On Monday, November 21, 1983, the Little Red School House was loaded onto an Odle Construction and House Movers truck.
The journey began south to State Highway 1, escorted at times by State Troopers, over the Kankakee River Bridge, at a location known as Avon, then north by back roads into town. Following the progress were school children and their teachers taking a break from their studies to witness the event. Seniors and retired teachers also cheered it on its way. As it turned out, only one brick fell in the actual move. Placed onto a new foundation located at 125 West Fifth Street, the further repairs of the floor, roof, ceiling, window and door began almost immediately.
In the restored school, four area schools are represented. The tin ceiling was taken from a wing of St. Patrick's Academy that was being demolished; two slate chalkboards, erasers and clothes hooks came from Range School; the Declaration of Independence and desks came from Lorraine School and some pictures on the wall are from the Old Momence High School. The spring of 1984 saw the landscaping around the school completed and the Little Red Schoolhouse Museum dedicated on Saturday, June 16 1984.
The move and restoration were the result of cooperation between civic groups, government agencies, banks, businesses, the school board, students and citizens young and old of Momence. This building now stands as a monument to the community spirit of the people of Momence. The little red schoolhouse is open periodically for town festivals and by appointment. It is our hope that as this schoolhouse is visited for many years to come, it will continue to be a dedication to the many women who taught in these less than ideal conditions; who brought knowledge, a love of country, and a sense of patriotism to their students and helped to shape the town we call Momence.
All photographs on this page are property of the Mt. Airy Schoolhouse Association. Please email if you would like a copy of a photo. Downloading or copying photos for the purpose of any type of publication without consent from the Mt. Airy Schoolhouse Association is strictly prohibited.
Contact Information: For appointments please call Marlene BeDell at (815) 932-5794
The Mt. Airy Schoolhouse Association wishes to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of The Momence Women's Club. Ova Parish, project chairperson, Mrs. Sandra Ortiz, project secretary-treasurer and to our Club President: Mrs. Carol Morse (1982-1984) and Mrs. Marlene Smith-BeDell (1984-1986) for their efforts in seeing this project successfully completed.
Saturday, September 17, 2017 was a day of celebration for the City of Momence. Spearheaded by the ladies of the Mt. Airy Little Red School House Board, Heritage Day activities began with the raising of the new flag and pole donated by the Jake Munyon family and a re-dedication of the school house after renovations were completed through the generosity of the Van Drunen family.