Stephen K. Hayt Elementary School

Hayt School

Hayt School, ca. 1907. Courtesy of Bill Latoza.

Stephen K. Hayt Elementary School
1518 West Granville Avenue
Historical profile by Julia S. Bachrach

Shortly after the turn of the 20th century, when America’s famous reformer Jane Addams served on Chicago’s Board of Education, she and others suggested that school buildings should become “social centers,” by providing after-hours use for meetings, lectures, and cultural programs. Professor Charles Zueblin, who had established a settlement house for the University of Chicago, worked with the School Extension committee to develop a plan that would allow school buildings throughout Chicago to serve as “community centers” to their surrounding neighborhoods. (1)

Photograph circa 1907. Courtesy of Bill Latoza.

Photograph ca. 1907. Courtesy of Bill Latoza.

Zueblin also led a movement to provide open space and playgrounds near schools for the first time in the late 1890s. (2) These ideas inspired Dwight H. Perkins, who designed Hayt School. Perkins was first appointed as the Board of Education’s architect in 1905. Politically-motivated members of the administration and board later attacked his innovative design ideas including the use of school buildings as social centers. Critics argued that auditoriums and other community spaces in the schools were “extravagant and little used.” (3) Such criticism did not prove true with Stephen Hayt School, which was originally constructed in 1906 and opened for school use in the fall of 1907.

Hayt’s assembly hall and gymnasium, designed to seat over 1,100 people, have played an important role to the surrounding community for decades. In June of 1913, when the West North Edgewater Improvement Association held a meeting in Hayt School’s auditorium, shouting broke out in the crowded, smoky room when Mrs. Florence Bennett Peterson walked in and took a seat. (4) Three other women soon entered the room. Having recently won the right to vote, they had decided to exercise their new rights by being the first women ever to attend a meeting of the neighborhood organization. The women participated in this and future sessions, where they focused on noisy peddlers, garbage removal, as well as street cleaning and paving.

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©2007 James Iska

Over the years, Hayt School continued to serve as a vital community center—largely due to the efforts of an active Parent Teacher Association, which was first established in 1914. Among the Hayt PTA’s numerous events were: father’s nights featuring songs, skits, and student band performances; lectures for adults on a variety of topics such as “Good Nutrition for Democracy’s Children,” and “The Use of Radio in Education,” as well as fetes, parades, costume parties, and potluck lunches. (5)

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©2007 James Iska

The Hayt PTA did not shy away from controversial or political issues. In the 1920s, the organization supported a progressive plan to provide free dental clinics in the schools. (6) During the same period, the PTA provided fresh milk to students. In 1925, members became alarmed when children complained about the milk’s sour taste. A committee of parents visited the dairy and determined that the conditions were unsanitary. As a result, the PTA attempted to buy milk from another dairy, quickly learning that the Milk Wagon Association of Chicago would refuse to deliver from any other dairy, and that nonunion wagons were often threatened by gun if they attempted to deliver milk. (7) Despite the union’s intimidating practices, the PTA exposed the corruption to the Employers’ Association of Chicago which brought the issue to the attention of the press and the Illinois State’s Attorney.

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©2007 James Iska

Hayt School is one of the earliest buildings that Perkins completed during his tenure as school architect. Jennifer Louis Gray, who wrote a Ph.D. dissertation about Dwight Perkins’s contributions to the development of modern buildings in Chicago, explains that he “gradually incorporated higher construction standards” and made other design improvements that responded to curricular developments and enhanced the experiences of the students and teachers who used the buildings. (8) Hayt is one of the only schools designed under Perkins’s leadership in which lavatories were provided only on the basement level. Soon after the completion of Hayt, Perkins began advocating the creation of “toilet towers,” to provide bathrooms on each story of the schools. (9)

Hayt is one of six buildings known as “Key Schools” because they are similar in design and planning. In addition to Key School itself, the others are Budlong, Warren, Oglesby, and Lloyd. These schools were all originally designed to accommodate twenty-four classrooms. The 1906 Hayt School is an elegant three-story structure with a high basement. The exterior walls are composed of cream colored pressed brick. The Granville Street façade has three entrances. The two secondary doorways still convey their original function as separate entrances for boys and girls. The Hayt name is inscribed above the center entranceway.

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War hero Stephen K. Hayt (1880–1904) was the son of Walter Hayt, the deputy recorder of Cook County. A north side resident, Stephen K. Hayt served as the commander of 37 soldiers assigned to occupy the Island of Samar in the years following the Philippine insurrection. (10) In December of 1904, a band of guerrillas ambushed and killed Hayt and all of his men. When news of Hayt’s death reached Chicago, there was a quick move to memorialize him, and the board soon renamed the old, Rose Hill School in his honor.

In June of 1907, just a few months before the school would be occupied for the first time, the board’s building and grounds committee suggested changing the name from Stephen K. Hayt to Nathaniel Pope School. After the committee took initial action to rename the school, alderman Winifield P. Dunn (25th Ward) asserted that this change would “cast an undeserved slur upon the name of Lieut. Hayt… who lost his life leading a forlorn hope in the Philippines.” (11) This impassioned speech along with a report suggesting that it would cost $220 to chisel off the old name and carve in the new convinced the board not to approve the name change. A decade later, however, the board named a new school building in honor of Nathaniel Pope (1784–1850) who served as a delegate to the 14th congress and a United States Judge for the district of Illinois.

Through much of its history, Hayt School had a substantial playground that included a frame field house. Like many of the other field houses that served Chicago Public Schools, this one had male and female playground supervisors who worked on weekdays after school until 9 p.m. and all day on Saturdays. In addition to organized sports, the playground had its own rhythm band that participated in Chicago Public School competitions. (12)  The playground hosted special events such as Halloween parties, Mardi Gras pageants, and roller skating meets.

Hayt playground pagent, 1939. Photograph courtesy of Chicago Park District Special Collections.

Hayt playground pageant, 1939. Chicago Park District Special Collections.

Hayt School suffered from overcrowding for many decades. In 1996, the Public Building Commission made major improvements, constructing a substantial addition to the west of the original building. The improvement project also included tuckpointing and other repairs to the original Perkins-designed building. The design of the cream colored brick addition is respectful to that of the historical school. Although the Public Building Commission project resulted in the loss of open space, significant improvements were also made to the grounds through the Campus Park Program.

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©2007 James Iska

Notes

  1. “Schools as ‘Social Centers’” Chicago Daily Tribune, June 9, 1902, p. 12.
  2. Charles Zueblin, “Municipal Playgrounds in Chicago,” American Journal of Sociology, vol. 4, no. 2, Sept. 1898, pp. 145-58.
  3. “Perkins Strife Cropes up Again” Chicago Daily Tribune, March 19, 1910, p. 11.
  4. “Woman Claims Her New Rights” Chicago Daily Tribune, June 15, 1913.
  5. “Child Nutrition Subject of PTA at Hayt School,” Chicago Daily Tribune, January 13, 1946; “Place of Radio in Education is PTA Talk Topic,” Chicago Daily Tribune, December 7, 1941.
  6. “Public School Dental Clinic Move Boosted,” Chicago Daily Tribune, Dec. 30, 1928,
  7. “Charge Labor Czars Control Citizen’s Milk,” Chicago Daily Tribune, Sept. 16, 1925, p. 1.
  8. Jennifer Louise Gray, “Ready for Experiment: Dwight Perkins and Progressive Architectures in Chicago 1893 – 1918,” submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy under the Executive Committee of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Columbia University, 2011, p. 272.
  9. “Dwight H. Perkins: father of today’s “new” school ideas. He tried them all…and the board of education tried him,” Architectural Forum, October, 1952, p. 120.
  10. David Schneidman, “School— Memorial to Army Scout- Lt. Hayt Killed in Phillippine Uprising in 1904” Chicago Tribune, May 27, 1965, p. N1.
  11. “Spooning Pupils Won’t Segregate” CDT, June 15, 1907, p.5.
  12. “66 Rhythm Bands Graded in Playground Contests,” CDT, Feb 13, 1947.
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