Sitting atop a hill above Lisle, St. Joan of Arc church stood out like a jewel. Anyone who lived in Lisle will remember the wonderful sound of her bells being heard throughout the town.
As a kid, I couldn't
comprehend how anyone could demolish anything this beautiful. To this
explanations still feel as empty as they did then. Like "It's
so outdated!" "It's falling apart!" "Maintenance
costs!" etc. etc.
So many towns, churches and universities have found ways to preserve the history that exists within the walls of such wonderful structures. What the heck was our excuse?
I remember the small
crowd of people that came to watch the demolition.
I remember the huge
yellow crane that was brought in to get the job done. It's large "tank like" tracks
would squeak as it positioned itself for it's next barrage. The engine
of the crane would belch out
its exhaust and, as the onlookers braced themselves, the wrecking ball
would strike the wall. The bricks, glass, wood and memories splashed
apart and came tumbling down into large gray piles of rubble.
As the day wore on, the churning of the crane's engine continued and the walls of the church slowly crumbled to the ground. What happened next, none of us will forget.
By this time there may have been thirty to forty people standing in
the parking lot. My friends and I, standing as we always did with our
bikes upright between our legs. The area now looked like a scene from
The crane moved to get a better shot with the wrecking ball. Everyone
in the parking lot moved to the end of the lot closest to the church.
We all held our breath as the ball swung back and took aim. Everyone
had been secretly waiting to see this final strike. Once the tower was
gone... It would be finished.
The ball hit the tower with a harsh ferocity. But what happened next...
no one expected.
The crane turned
off its engines and the workers ran down to the lot to make sure everyone
was alright. Most people dusted themselves off
and reassured others that they were fine. At that point, a certain silence
fell over the area. Everyone, including the workers, stopped and just
stared at the now destroyed bell tower.
At that point, it
was as if a cloud of quiet embarrassment fell over us all. And over
After a long silent
pause, most just turned and walked away...
The picture on the left shows those wonderful stairs that bring back so many memories for many of you. All that is remaining today is a small cement slab that used to have the bike rack on it. It's just about ten feet left of the stairs. The picture on the right was an unbelievable find! It shows the priests blessing the begining of the construction (probably in the early 1920s). What's really cool is when you look at the people standing on the upper right side of the picture, look at the view behind them. No homes and hardly any trees for that matter.
The picture on the left shows one of the graduating classes. The shot on the right is a close-up of the same shot but showing more detail of the old altar.
Here are two rare shots showing two of the three original class rooms at the St. Joan of Arc School. Check out the wood floors, statues and even those old radiators.
And yes... Those are "chalk boards!"
The original school was attached to the church. (The square part of the building just left of the bell tower in the photo on top of this page.)
The paper on the left contains a narrative from one of the original nuns of St. Joan. It is so interesting and gives some interesting facts about it's history. Click here to read article.
The photo on the right is of the first graduating class. Great looking bunch! Oh... Can you spot Harry Potter in the photo?
These photos are pretty self explanatory.
Good looking kids with funny looking hats!
What could be more fun?
The article on the left tells the exciting story of the opening of the new St. Joan School! The paper is from 1957.
Click here to read article.
And yes, the photo on the right is the "new" school with the old church/school in the background. The "new" school still stands today.
Well... As always... "It
was too old!" "The roof leaked!" Blah blah blah...
The barn on the top left was on the land where they built the college.
The old matriarch is coming down,
Quietly, without a sound
Through her windows she has watched as we walked,
Shrouded in her colors, towards our destinies,
Looking over our shoulders at this structure,
Who had been our home, our shelter, and our guide.
Many memories she has within her walls.
Memories, of each and everyone who entered her halls.
She will go down,
In history, in memory, and in admiration.
I will miss her copper roof, red brick, iron hand rails, and oak doors.
I will miss Benedictine Hall.
Debi Skipper, Class of 2002