West Division School was the third school to open in District 62, following North Division School in 1874 and South Division (later Central) School in 1906. The community was in growth mode in 1923, with many homes built in the Des Plaines Manor subdivision north of Thacker Street and more soon to come in Des Plaines Gardens, south of Thacker between Lee, Algonquin, and Second Streets.
The new school was designed by the architecture firm of Ashby, Ashby,
and Schultze. This firm was unusual in that in addition to individual
buildings, it also specialized in the design of standard designs for
homes and institutional buildings, particularly schools and libraries.
Many of their designs were built throughout Chicagoland. The old South
Division School was another Ashby design, and a near carbon copy still
exists in Northbrook, now used as Crestwood Place senior housing.
Ashby also designed the original Des Plaines Carnegie Library and
likely designed the original Maine Township High School. Despite this,
West School has very distinctive architecture, with deeply textured
brick and very modern lines.
The school served District 62 for many years. It later recieved
several additions, including a major addition in 1949 by the Childs &
Smith architectural firm, which went on to design Algonquin School and
Maine West High School. Facing declining enrollment, the district made
the controversial decision to close the school in 1981.
The school was then reused by Cablenet as offices and a TV studio,
while the Des Plaines Senior Center and Self-Help Closet and Food
Pantry took up residence elsewhere in the building. A proposal to
convert the entire building into senior housing was proposed in 1984,
but was dropped because of concerns over the addition of a six story
building. The building was transferred to the city in 1988 for $1 with
the intention of converting it into a community center or senior
center. Various proposals were floated, including the demolition of
the 1923 section to make way for an atrium, but this too was dropped
when Prairie Lakes was built. Other ideas came and went - school
facilities for District 207 programs, a library site - before the city
eventually sold it to Willows Academy. Willows has since rehabilitated
and expanded the building.