Brainerd Building demolition begins today in Libertyville

 
 
Updated 11/17/2014 9:27 AM
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  • After 97 years and thousands of students, the Brainerd Building -- home to the original Libertyville High School -- has a date with the wrecking ball. Demolition begins today. Once complete, the site will be used for athletic fields and a parking lot.

      After 97 years and thousands of students, the Brainerd Building -- home to the original Libertyville High School -- has a date with the wrecking ball. Demolition begins today. Once complete, the site will be used for athletic fields and a parking lot. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

After 97 years, the end is near for Libertyville's Brainerd Building.

The original home of the Libertyville High School Wildcats, the two-story brick structure on Route 176 at Brainerd Avenue is facing its final curtain and a date with a wrecking ball.

Demolition of the structure -- and the adjacent Jackson Gym -- is set to begin today with some interior work. The project should be fully underway next week, Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 officials said.

The land, which still is owned by District 128, will be turned into sports fields and a parking lot. A memorial to the former school will be erected on the site, too.

"It's going to be a little different, to not have the Brainerd Building there," said Libertyville Mayor Terry Weppler, who grew up in town. "It think everybody's going to miss it."

Brainerd's life was a full one. Thousands of students were educated in its classrooms, including quite a few who became celebrities as adults -- none more famous than legendary actor Marlon Brando, who attended the school but didn't graduate.

Brainerd even was featured in a motion picture: the John Hughes-produced "New Port South," which filmed in Libertyville in 2000.

It also hosted athletic tryouts, practices and competitions, as well as community events and countless other gatherings.

Weppler has especially fond memories of the track inside the Jackson Gym, which was elevated above the gym floor and gave runners a neat view of the action below.

"It was fun to run around that track," he said.

A small group of Libertyville residents and volunteers came together to try to save Brainerd, developing a multimillion-dollar proposal to turn the facility into a community center, but the plans collapsed without a funding source.

Now, some 60 years after it was turned into a freshmen-only facility and 15 years after classroom activity ended there altogether, Brainerd is being readied for crushing blows that will reduce it to debris and dust.

To commemorate the building's demise, the Daily Herald has prepared a special package about the Brainerd Building and its history. Turn to the Neighbor section to read more.

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