Longfellow Elementary School

Quick Stats

  • LOCATION: 4198 Seventh Avenue, Rock Island, Rock Island County
  • STATUS: Saved
  • BUILT: 1934
  • SITE TYPE: School
  • GEOGRAPHY: Downstate
  • OWNER AT TIME OF LISTING: Public, School District
  • THREAT AT TIME OF LISTING: School closings and consolidation
  • CURRENT USE: School
  • TAKE ACTION: Visit: https://longfellow.rimsd41.org

(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

Historic Significance

Adorned with diamond-patterned brick walls and stone finials, Longfellow Elementary School has welcomed Rock Island students since its construction in 1934. The Tudor-style school is a cherished resource in the Keystone neighborhood of Rock Island.

(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

Threat at Time of Listing - 2007

In 2004, the Rock Island School District decided to close several neighborhood schools, including Longfellow Elementary, and consolidate them by constructing a new, larger school building.

This announcement was met with huge public protest. Residents valued the historic school as a neighborhood anchor, contributing to the area’s architectural character in a central location to which students could walk. To protect the historic local institution, the Keystone Neighborhood Association took action and joined Landmarks Illinois in listing the Longfellow School to LI’s Most Endangered program in 2007.

(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

Preservation Efforts

The Keystone Neighborhood Association formed the Friends of Longfellow School, a local advocacy organization that engaged the community and its elected officials by sponsoring a letter-writing campaign, resident survey and workshops for residents and officials. This grassroots effort convinced the school administration to retain and repair the existing Longfellow School and even construct an architecturally appropriate addition to accommodate growth for 150 more students. The school district worked closely with local advocates throughout the process, consulting on traffic impact and building design. More recently, Longfellow School underwent some critical renovations to ensure its continued use, including upgrading the gymnasium and installing air conditioners, ceiling fans and new carpet. Thanks to sustained advocacy work and local support, Longfellow Elementary continues to serve as a beloved school and center of the community today.

Beyond the rehabilitation of Longfellow School, the Rock Island-Milan School District performed similar updates on other neighborhood schools and remains committed to the consideration of neighborhood-based locations as part of future school planning. Longfellow Elementary offers a lesson to communities across Illinois that historic neighborhood schools matter and can be saved to serve future generations of students. Every year, Illinois loses several architecturally significant schools statewide due to consolidation, deferred maintenance and misguided planning. Longfellow Elementary demonstrates how school districts can work with the community and partners such as Landmarks Illinois to meet the evolving needs of students and save our historic neighborhood schools.

“Longfellow stands as an icon for refurbishment and reuse of a community asset. When we see kids walking to school and hear lots of playground chatter, it makes this team effort all worthwhile.” – Phil Dennis, Keystone Neighborhood Association.

(Photo credit: Landmarks Illinois)

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