Murals from Merrill: Roosevelt preserving a piece of District 64 history

Old murals from Merrill School moved around Roosevelt Elementary School

You can watch the "Murals from Merrill" story here.

All that is left of Sanford E. Merrill School is a nameplate at the bottom of a water fountain at Brickton Park in Park Ridge. It reads "Sanford E. Merrill School, 1951-1982, Formely On This Site". 

The former District 64 elementary school was demolished shortly after it closed. But the memory of the building and the students who once went there is being kept alive by Roosevelt Principal Dr. Kevin Dwyer. 

"I'm happy to talk to you a little bit about Roosevelt history, because some of the history is not entirely of our own," said Dr. Dwyer. "Over the years, some other schools in the Park Ridge-Niles School District closed back in the late 70s, early 80s, and those schools, families and students then came to schools like Roosevelt." 

As students came to Roosevelt from Merrill, they brought over murals from their old school to their new one...where they hung in Roosevelt's old auditorium for 50 years. 

"These murals tell the story of a number of families moving from Merrill School to Roosevelt School, and how that had to be traumatic for them," said Dr. Dwyer. "Their school was closing down and several years later, in the 80s, Merrill School was demolished. It's only an open park and playground today. So families from Merrill don't really have a school that they can go back and visit."

Years went by and the origin of the artwork was cloudy. Until the pieces had to be taken down because of construction. 

"We took down these murals off the wall and what we were thrilled about discovering these murals is first of all the quality of the artwork that went into them," Dr. Dwyer said while looking at the 50 year old murals.

There's one mural for each grade. One dates back to 1976 and features everything Chicago. From the city's iconic flag to landmarks, sports teams, and yes even transportation. On the back of the frame was another surprise....the names of students who helped create the art. 

"They've held up remarkably well over time," said Dr. Dwyer. "Maybe some of the paper is faded from how it looked originally but you could still see they are distinctive tiles made out of paper glued down. They were a source of pride for these families and students." 

Now that the history behind the murals has been rediscovered, Dr. Dwyer is going to continue to have one displayed. 

"We are so excited about opening up a new library and the renovation from a school auditorium to a library is rather unique, but when you open up a new space you like to carry in the old with you," said Dr. Dwyer. "That's what we're going to do with these murals. We hope to preserve one of them, and maybe freshen them up by painting them and framing them. But at least one of these murals will hang proudly in the library and in some way we will commemorate the teachers and the students who helped put this project together."

Attached are a few more pictures of the murals.