Belden School Preservation
Belden School: A Small School That Taught Large Lessons
Belden School was built in 1859. The school was placed near the center of Guilford Township, Illinois, and named after Thomas Belden, an early settler and a school trustee. It was the third one-room schoolhouse to be built in Guilford Township. The stone structure is located off Heatherdowns Lane in The Galena Territory on a thickly wooded hillside flanked by a steep gully on the downhill side. There was no electricity, no running water, and no bathrooms until 1880 when two outhouses were built at a cost of $17 each.
One teacher instructed all the students. All grades were taught at the same time. Often the teacher was not much older than the students. The last classes were held in 1943 when consolidation of small districts occurred.
Over the years the empty schoolhouse was sheltered by the woods and forgotten in time. The building remained untouched so today it is a snapshot in time, allowing visitors to see and feel its history. Volunteer efforts helped preserve the structure over the years, but time took its toll on the building.
The Belden School Restoration Committee was formed in 2004 by a group of Territory residents. Active efforts, using funds contributed from many interested and generous people, resulted in the restoration of the building. The committee showed resolve and perseverance in its commitment to complete the project depicting the school as it appeared in 1936. Today, Belden School is an arm of the Galena Territory Foundation, a 501(c) tax exempt public charity.
On September 5, 2009, Belden School celebrated its Sesquicentennial and opened its doors to the general public. With the restoration complete, the committee changed its name to the Belden School Preservation Committee. The committee provides tours and special events at the school on the first and third Saturdays during the months of June, July, August and September, from 10 a.m. until noon.
Local schools are encouraged to schedule visits and specific programs will be developed to share lessons of the past to help students understand that schools were not always as they are today.
Belden School website
Linda Niessner, Belden School Preservation Chair
4 Knoll Court, Galena, IL 61036, 815-777-0949
24W440 Eugenia Drive, Naperville, IL 60540, 630-254-4967
E-mail Linda Niessner