Audubon School

2601 18th AvenueAudubon School


Rock Island's 100 Most Significant Unprotected Structures, 2009; Rock Island Landmark, 2013 - appealed 2013

Significance Statement

The architectural flagship of Rock Island's remaining historical schools.

Architectural Style

Georgian Revival

Construction Date

1922-23; 1957 addition

Architect / Builder

Horn, Benj. A.; Cervin & Horn; Stuhr, William

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Earliest Audubon School

The first Audubon school was built on this site in 1912. It was a frame structure and soon proved to be inadequately sized. It is now an apartment building located at the southwest intersection of 18th Avenue and 27th Street. That early Audubon School is believed to have been designed by George P. Stauduhar. He is most known for designing Roman Catholic churches (more than 200 in the Upper Mississippi Valley) and high-style residences.

Opening Celebration

Three hundred and twenty-four students began the fall term in the new building, but the dedication for the new Audubon school took place on November 27, 1923. It was attended by over 1,500 people during a formal opening, ceremonies and inspection. Addresses were made by Mayor Walter A. Rosenfield; J.F. Witter, president of the Rock Island Board of Education; R.W. Bardwell, Superintendent of the Rock Island Public Schools; and Benj A. Horn of the Cervin & Horn architectural firm. "Trip Around the World" was the theme for the celebration, with each school room decorated in the manner of a different country and offering food from that region. There were Swiss cheese sandwiches, Spanish chili and German wieners. Patriotic songs were sung and the gymnasium was decorated as the United States.

Design & Construction

Construction for Audubon school began in 1922 and was not completed until 1923. The opening celebration had to wait until the old frame school could be removed from the grounds and some other landscaping completed. The building was designed by Benj. A. Horn, of the Rock Island firm Cervin & Horn. The Rock Island Argus reported: "In the tour of the building, two rooms stood out as worthy of notice above all the others, one the library and the other the combination auditorium and gymnasium. The library is a large room and many windows on the east side furnish plenty of light. Something new has been worked out in the combination auditorium and gymnasium. The auditorium with the balcony will easily seat 500 people. When the auditorium is needed for a gymnasium, the front seats of the auditorium directly below the balcony to the stage are rolled under the stage out of the way with the result that part of the auditorium has been converted into a good sized gymnasium."

Mr. Horn's address during the dedication was modest. He credited the beautiful building to the workers and others who helped with the planning, but the newspaper article did not mention them by name.

Principal Jane Wilcox

In her February 8, 1924, obituary, Principal Jane L. Wilcox was credited for coordinating the effort behind the construction of the new Audubon school. She had been a teacher in the Rock Island school district for 35 years, arriving at Audubon in 1912 with the construction of the first school and receiving a promotion to principal to oversee the construction of the new school.

John Hauberg, Sr. was one of Jane Wilcox’s pallbearers, and it is her friendship with Susanne Denkmann Hauberg and John Hauberg that resulted in the gift of 21 valuable Audubon engravings to the school. According to a 1994 letter explaining the history of the Audubon engravings, John Hauberg, Jr. said his “Aunt Jane” promised Susanne Hauberg she would stay as principal at Audubon – which was their neighborhood school – until he and his older sister Catherine were through the sixth grade. Unfortunately, Jane died suddenly of a heart attack just five months after the school opened. It is unknown if the engravings were donated by the Haubergs in appreciation of Jane Wilcox or in memory to her. Regardless, the valuable John James Audubon engravings included 13 of the original “double elephant” sized series and seven of second, smaller series. Both of these series of steel engravings were authorized and overseen by John James Audubon before his death in 1851. The engravings were rediscovered in 1987 by a parent looking for a storage box who recognized the value of the collection. The valuable prints were ultimately sold to a Chicago art house for $15,289, except for one of a whippoorwill, which was donated to Augustana College in Rock Island, and restored.

Later Years

Succeeding Jane Wilcox as principal was Ellen Freed (or Fried) from 1924 to 1942. Edna Barwick was principal in 1947 and 1957, at which time additions were made to the building. By 1966-67, Frank Brooks was the principal and the enrollment stood at 560 students. The school became known as the Audubon Math & Science Academy in 1992 when the school district realigned its curriculum. After a few years, the emphasis on math and science was eliminated and the school returned to a regular curriculum. In June 2009, Audubon school ceased to exist as part of school realignment and the District 41's "Building Excellence Plan." However, classes continued to be held there for a time while the new Rock Island Center for Math & Science was under construction.

Audubon is remarkably similar to Edison Jr. High (1930) and Longfellow (1935) and Frances Willard (1937) schools. These schools were built by Cervin & Stuhr. The Rock Island firm SGGM Architects and Interior Designers has plans of the Audubon additions and Edison, Longfellow and Frances Willard on file. An addition to Audubon was made in 1947 (Cervin & Stuhr) and a two-room addition was made in 1957, designed by William Stuhr.


Architecturally, Audubon is classified as Georgian Revival, a subtype of Classical Revival, with the symmetrical composition and classical detailing common to the style. The main door is a principal feature, with paneled (non original doors). The triple hung windows have smaller panes and muntins. The main door and side windows have fanlight windows above. There is a decorative entablature above the three-bay, recessed entry. The entry features stone Tuscan columns and keystones in the arch above. Above the arches are sections of classical motifs in relief. There is a decorative cornice along the front façade with patterned brick. The walls are red brick with a buff brick cross hatch pattern in the front cornice and the sidewalls. End sections of the building have stone quoins.


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