I’ve enjoyed Harriet Hausman’s columns for years. Recently, I came across her excellent book, Reflections: A History of River Forest. In it, she describes the first OPRF High School building, and how it expanded. Her book puts into perspective the multi-phase Imagine work underway today.

OPRF was built via a bond issue in 1905 and then enhanced through multiple phases of construction over two decades. The original building was expanded multiple times — in 1913, again in 1920, and again in 1925. Meanwhile the athletic facilities were erected: first the stadium, in 1924, and then the field house and girls’ gymnasium in 1928.

Three decades later, a new multi-stage period of improvements began. Hausman writes that in 1958-9 new labs, art, industrial arts, and classrooms were constructed; 1960 brought more new classrooms, labs, and counseling offices. By 1962, construction work included a new health center, additional classrooms, and study halls. And in 1965, the district passed a bond issue to construct the performing arts facilities, work Hausman says “was completed in time for the school’s observance of its 100th anniversary in 1973.”

Three takeaways from Hausman’s very brief summary of a century of OPRF capital improvements:

First, each previous “wave” of facilities construction was performed over the course of decades (1905-1928, 1958-1973).

Second, each of these waves consisted of multiple shorter projects. New facilities were built, reconstructed, or renovated in a series of projects, over a long period of time.

Third, each wave included a bond issue … but not necessarily at the outset of that wave. (In the ’60s, the bond issue supported the fourth stage of work.)

To anyone doubting today’s Imagine capital improvements, both those just completed and the projects still to come: our community has done this before. Twice, in fact. The multi-stage, long-term renovations contemplated by the Imagine plan are quite literally how our community has addressed the school’s needs throughout its entire existence.

Tim Brandhorst
River Forest

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