St. Stephen’s School in Streator to come down

STREATOR — From her office in the former convent of St. Stephen’s Parish, Sister Alice Ann Harcharik, OSF, can see St. Stephen’s School.

“My, if this building could speak,” said Sister Alice Ann of the three-story structure, whose halls she once walked as a student and principal.

Starting tomorrow, it will be up to the former students, school families and teachers, as well as the many members of the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate who served there, to do the talking for St. Stephen’s School.

The building, which closed in 2006, will be demolished by John Pohar and Sons Inc. of LaSalle on Dec. 15 and 16. Msgr. John Prendergast, pastor of St. Stephen’s Parish, said once the debris has been cleared away the land will be turned into a parking lot.

“The school had to come down,” he explained, saying there was no use for the building that could offset the $60,000 yearly expense of keeping it. “It had to come down to maintain the programs within the structures we had.”

The work of bringing down the school, which was established in 1888 as the first Slovak Catholic parish school in the United States, started weeks ago when the windows were taken out as part of the effort to remove asbestos from the building.

Msgr. Prendergast said the original estimate to demolish the school was $350,000, but he expects those costs to rise because asbestos was also found in the terrazzo flooring in the hallways and staircases. That work was completed Dec. 5.

It was also necessary to reroute the electricity, heating and other utilities since all of them came into the school first and then went to the other buildings in the parish complex — the convent, rectory, church and a wing that includes a gym and cafeteria. That wing, which was added in 1977, will remain standing and continue to be used by St. Stephen’s parishioners, according to Msgr. Prendergast, who is also pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish and administrator of St. Casimir’s in Streator.

He said they hope to preserve the cornerstone, the cross, and the stone above the main door of the school that identified it as St. Stephen’s School, but much will depend on whether or not they can be removed without breaking. A memorial marking the spot where the school stood will be erected in the parking lot eventually.

Msgr. Prendergast added that the Altar and Rosary Society was planning to set aside some of the bricks from the school and turn them into mementos. A photo postcard is also being developed.

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