Thursday, October 8, 2009

October Special: Part 2

When we drive to see Jenna's family in Albion, we always pass through a little town called Grayville. Like most small towns in rural Illinois, it has a crystallized downtown and some of those token treasures I always seek out, like ghost signs and old theaters.

However, there's one other thing in the town of Grayville that I had always heard about, denoted by pointing fingers and hushed tones.

Far up on a hill on the edge of town, there is an overgrown field. The old bones of some sport equipment poke up through the earth, calling back to a time when this field was frequently beaten by the cleats of young residents of Grayville. But the field is antiquated, as is its host building just beyond its borders.

Rising above the weeds of the old field is the ghost of Grayville's original high school. The vehement claim of "1911" looms over the bulging doric columns framing the building's doorway.

Any doubts of the building's original purpose are whispered away by the words "PUBLIC SCHOOL" rendered in terse capitals over the doorway. But no students have passed through these doors in at least forty years.

All the marks of a long-abandoned building are present: window panes yawn with gaping holes; names of errant vandals are scrawled on stone surfaces; smells of asbestos and decaying plaster waft out of the wounds sustained by time. The ragged teeth marks of an unchallenged storm still mark the entire right side of the building; a combination of questionable ownership, lack of funds, and general disinterest conspire to keep the high school in this partially-dismembered state.

Quoins and bricks and cinder blocks litter the ground like scattered entrails. Like most abandoned buildings we find, we did not enter this one, wary of poisonous air, wilting ceilings, indwelling monsters, patrolling officers, or a combination of the above. But despite this monolith's slow dissolution, it still dominates the hill as a symbol of the power and respect an education once offered. I see this high school as a defiant figure, challenging any new Styrofoam-and-plaster laden modern school to climb its hill and fight it in a battle of pure majesty. There is no doubt in my mind that this rotting sentinel would win that battle any day.



Anonymous said...


I thought you might like to know that the school has only been empty for only a little over 20 years. I graduated from this very high school building in 1987, and I think the last class to graduate there was actually the class of 1990. It's possible it was the class of 1991... can't remember. At any rate, the school hasn't been empty for more than 20 years.

Anonymous said...

It was the class of 1992 my class to be exact the memories that the old pile of rumble holds

Anonymous said...

Being on of the first to graduate from the new school, (I was a junior there in 92). The old Grayville High School had a large foundation crack caused by an earthquake. It was a subsequent quake, not a storm which caused the damage to the third floor which you have so gloriously pictured in the banner.

Jonesy said...

Anon(s) -

Thanks for the accurate info. Whatever I wrote in the blog post comes from what my wife's family told me. In any case, I've always loved that old building and I'm glad to hear some memories about it. Whenever I'm in Grayville, I always look up at the hill to see if it's still there.

Anonymous said...

Tonight, this old beauty breathed its last breath. She is currently fully engulfed in fire and the entire building is collapsing in upon itself. Thank you for the wonderful pictures.

Mandy Bogue said...

I live in Tacoma Washington and came across a Macbeth copy with a stamp marked Grayville public highschool 1883 with a signature of Margaret Melrose.

Jonesy said...

Thanks for your comment, Mandy - and as the commenter above noted, this building burned down a few years ago. So you hold a relic of a place that is totally lost to the ages. :)