Crow Island School

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Crow Island School
Crow Island School.jpg
Crow Island School is located in Illinois
Crow Island School
Location 1112 Willow Road
Winnetka, Illinois 60093
Coordinates 42°6′2″N 87°44′45″W / 42.10056°N 87.74583°W / 42.10056; -87.74583Coordinates: 42°6′2″N 87°44′45″W / 42.10056°N 87.74583°W / 42.10056; -87.74583
Built 1940
Architect Saarinen,Eliel & Eero; Perkins,Wheeler & Will
Architectural style International Style
Governing body Local
NRHP Reference # 89001730
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 27, 1989[1]
Designated NHL December 14, 1990[2]

Crow Island School in Winnetka, Illinois, is an elementary school significant for its progressive philosophy and its architecture. The design of its building was a collaboration between the Chicago firm of Perkins, Wheeler and Will and Eero Saarinen.[3] It currently serves kindergarten through fourth grade students.[4] The school was established in 1940-41.[5] The original jungle gym is located here, having been moved from Horace Mann School in 1940.[6][7] The school was awarded the Twenty-five Year Award by the American Institute of Architects in 1971.[8] It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1990.[2]


Progressive education flourished in the 1920's and continued to develop in the 1930's. However, because of economic hardship during the Great Depression, few new schools had been built to accommodate the movement. Carleton Washburne was a regional leader in progressive thought and, as superintendent of schools in Winnetka, Illinois, sought to establish a new school.


Perkins, Wheeler, & Will and Eliel & Eero Saarinen were selected as architects. They had to design the building for $287,000, a modest sum. A site for the school was selected on Crow Island, a high spot in the Skokie Marsh bordering the Crow Island Woods. The swamp was filled with landfill from two Works Progress Administration projects in the area: the Skokie Lagoons Project and a track depression for the Chicago and North Western Railway. John McFadzean and Robert Everly were consulted to design a park-like atmosphere for the school grounds.[9]

The school has four wings emerging from a central building with common rooms. This design allowed each classroom to have its down outdoor courtyard. Each wing also had its own playground, two of which feature experimental examples of a jungle gym. The Saarinens designed a hexagonal sandbox for the northwest wing. The main entrance is under a chimney overhang on the west, with an additional entrance for the kindergarten on the east. The one-story building is flat with the exception of a 50-foot (15 m) chimney emerging from the north face, providing a "fifth wing" stretching vertically.[9]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 
  2. ^ a b "Crow Island School". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-10-11. 
  3. ^ Oral History interview regarding design of school.
  4. ^ School website
  5. ^ School history website. Retrieved 2014-01-11.
  6. ^ "J" is for Jungle Gym from Winnetka, Illinois Historical Society
  7. ^ Crow Island School history
  8. ^ The American Institute of Architects. Twenty Five Year Recipients. Retrieved April 20, 2011.
  9. ^ a b Tubergen, Janice E. (October 27, 1989), National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Crow Island School, National Park Service, retrieved March 25, 2015 

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