Garfield School Senior Residences, Moline

2020 Landmarks Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award for Adaptive Use

Unused since 2014, demolition of the 1902 Garfield school buildings in Moline seemed imminent as neighbors feared the negative effects of the vacant property in light of the declining elementary school demographic. Gorman and Company, however, realized that affordable senior housing was a much better fit for the needs of the community than reviving the elementary school and have redeveloped the school campus into senior living space. Historic features of the National Register-listed former school were preserved while modern amenities were added to provide comfort for the residents. The old school building is again a place of comfort and security for the citizens of Moline, making it possible for them to gracefully age without having to leave their hometown. Accommodating and befitting the current demographic, passers-by of the Garfield School Residences cannot help but to comment on the project’s innovation and beauty.


(Photo Credit Ron Clewer)

Project Principals

Gorman & Company

Architect: Patrick Patrello Jr., AIA, NCARB

Other Principals:

  • Gary Gorman, Chairman
  • Brian Swanton, CEO
  • Mike Redman, CFO
  • Andre Blakely, Developer

Historic Consultant: MacRostie Historic Advisors, LLC

Civil Design (includes Landscape): Shive-Hattery, INC

MEPs: RTM Engineering Consultants, LLC

GEO TECH: Clinton Halverson, Sr. PE, TEAM

Structural Engingeering: Pierce Engineers, INC


(Photo Credit MMG)


Gorman & Company

Garfield Elementary School played a significant role in the history and development of the Moline, Illinois community. The Garfield Elementary School is locally significant under National Register Criteria A in the area of Education within the context of Moline. Garfield Elementary School originally served as one of two public elementary schools for the city of Moline and as the primary public elementary school for the distinct Moline community of Stewartville. The building remains the Stewartville community’s only surviving public school building. The current Garfield Elementary School sits on the site of an earlier Elementary School; first built in the 1870s and destroyed by fire in 1901. The new grade school building incorporated a variety of specialized spaces designed to serve the needs of a wide range of pupils, reflecting the expansion of public school education in Moline and the changing ideals surrounding primary and secondary education. Builder A.P. Lundquist, at a cost of $35,418, completed this second Garfield Elementary School in January 1902. The building’s architect Olof Cervin based his design on that of the nearby Willard School completed two years prior. The new Garfield Elementary School was two-and-a-half stories tall in a noble Classical Revival style. With the March 1901 fire most likely in mind, Cervin’s Garfield Elementary School was built with thick walls of fireproof masonry construction. Inside, the Garfield Elementary School had two staircases and three, 16-foot-wide double loaded corridors connecting eleven classrooms, called “recreation rooms,” each with their own dedicated “wardrobes,” or cloakrooms for coats and storage. A small principal’s office was located off the main first floor entry vestibule. The basement housed a large “physical culture room,” a separate girls playroom and girls and boys toilets. The building utilized steam heating systems fed by basement boilers through purpose-built wall chases and vents, and was fitted with modern electric lighting. The original building also had a large hipped roof system and an attic used for storage. With these safe and modern accommodations, the Moline Evening Mail declared the new Garfield Elementary School “a splendid structure.” Moline’s growing postwar prosperity and population prompted the expansion of the city’s public school system, resulting in new schools as well as renovations and additions to existing ones, including the Garfield Elementary School. A 14,314-square-foot, one-story high gymnasium and classroom wing was added to the south (rear) of the Garfield Elementary School in 1955. This lowslung Mid-Century Modern style north wing was designed by architect William F. Bernbrock of Moline, and constructed by contractors Langman & Son at a cost of $188,490. The 1955 block’s large new windows allowed light and air into six new classrooms, including a new kindergarten room with its own separate bathroom and an outdoor sandbox. The 1955 gymnasium housed a stage and an adjacent kitchen. The new classroom and gymnasium block was linked to the basement of the original 1902 classroom block by a brick- and glass clad hyphen. Today, you will find many of these features secured firmly for future generations.


(Photo courtesy Garfield School Senior Residences)

How did saving this place impact people in your community?

Gorman & Company

Most of us recall our earliest memories of elementary school because our cognitive abilities begin to blossom in those early years of attendance. Garfield School is no different in that capacity. Throughout the preservation process, we heard countless examples of Garfield memories and influences on participants of the process. During the community design charrettes, we heard multiple stories about the impact of the school, teachers, the parent-teacher organization and school families and friends on the greater community. From the playground stories to memories of former generations and family members participating in the sixth grade “Dad’s baseball league,” each were told with an enthusiasm that shows the significance of preserving spaces where communities and their families grow.

Today, Garfield School Senior Residences residents recall and continue to share their own memories. One resident recalls the fire escape slide being used as a way of leaving school on Friday if all the kids had done well on homework and tests. She also recalls in the principal’s/nurses office on the second floor of the original 1901 building the height chart on the window framework. The chart remains there today, incorporated into an apartment. In addition to these wonderful memories, Garfield School has created other indelible historic markers in our community. When Stewartville was incorporated into the City of Moline in 1896, the Stewartville School, as this early building was called, was renamed the Garfield Elementary School after slain U.S. President James Garfield. An accidental furnace fire started by a janitor destroyed this wood-frame school building on the cold morning of March 5, 1901. The Stewartville community was not yet connected to Moline’s city water system, weakening efforts to save the burning building. The first Garfield Elementary School fire is believed to have prompted the expansion of local water infrastructure to the new outlying community. The rebuilt Garfield Elementary School was opened to the public in a grand dedication ceremony on January 4, 1902. The ceremony included music performances, tours of the new building, and speeches by notable locals. One of many speakers that day, Augustana College president Gustav Andreen, celebrated the late U.S. President James Garfield and the naming of the new school building “to commemorate the life of a great man, a rich inheritance to the children of the land. May the life he lived and the memory of his character fall as a mantle upon the children to be educated here. May the minds to be taught here be as persistent, strenuous and conscientious as was that of him who has been honored. May that truth, unselfishness, honesty, courage, and lofty ambition fire each youthful heart.”

Judging from the first recollections of Garfield school that span more than a century, the stories we hear, and the improvements to the infrastructure and services for Moline, we believe the Garfield Elementary School — now the Garfield School Senior Residences — will continue serve as a mantle for significance and persistence in our riverbank community.

(Photo Credit Ron Clewer)

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