GENEVA – When the original Coultrap building opened as Geneva Community High School in 1923, it had a principal, nine teachers, one secretary, two or three telephones and room for 300 students.
It cost $205,000 to build and was thought to be among the best facilities in Illinois, said Mary Dolan, educator at the Geneva History Center.
Coultrap also served as a junior high, middle school and elementary school. Now, the school board has voted to raze the 90-year-old building because it has become too expensive to keep or maintain, and those who taught or went to school there shared their recollections. Nearly 50 people packed the meeting room Tuesday at the Geneva History Center for “Memories of Coultrap,” part of the Brown Bag Lunch series.
“The building was a source of pride for Geneva residents,” said Dolan, reading from various articles of the day. “The school boasted a fine gymnasium, an athletic field of nine or 10 acres considered to be one of the best football fields in the Fox River Valley.”
The building was dedicated in 1923 with 1,100 people attending. Local newspapers quoted guests about the dedication.
“With no wood in the outer construction to rot away, it would seem that a building of this type should never really grow old, but mellow with age,” Dolan quoted one observer.
It was converted to a junior high and in the 1960s and named in honor of Harry M. Coultrap, who served as superintendent, teacher and substitute teacher in Geneva from 1912 to 1950.
Kathy Krispen, who was hired to teach language arts at Coultrap Middle School in 1972, recalled the principal taking her to a room with an old wooden desk.
“I taught in nine different rooms,” Krispen said. “There is hardly a space in that building that I am not familiar with.”
She recalled a comment from a former board member, that he would “miss the sound of children playing.”
“Many children walked home through the neighborhoods on an early dismissal day, running downtown to have lunch with their friends,” Krispen said. “That is truly Geneva.”
Maureen Radecki, who attended Coultrap from 1971 to 1974, recalled having a piñata in Spanish class where students were blindfolded and whacked at it with a baseball bat.
Radecki took a swing and it went flying up into the light fixtures, shattering glass all over.
“We had to evacuate the classroom,” Radecki said. “We never did piñatas since, and it was my fault.”