All that's left are empty cubbyholes and steps with shallow grooves worn in them from the hundreds of children who passed through the doors of Washington and Jackson Schools.
The two buildings slated for demolition opened their doors one last time Tuesday evening to students of the past for a walk-through.
Two new elementary buildings, one a K-2 at the former Lincoln School site, and the other a 3-5 building at the former Bonham School site, will open this school year. This past school year, Washington housed grades 3 to 5, and Jackson was used for kindergarten students.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Margaret Thompson
Surrounded by stacks of chairs up for auction at Washington School in Niles, a young boy steps up to the chalkboard for one last scribble. The building, along with Jackson School, is slated to be demolished and a walk-through for past students was held on Tuesday.
In the teachers' lounge of Washington School - a previously forbidden area - a group of Niles natives laughed over memories of the school. They all attended Washington in the late 1950s.
"Our first junior high dance was in the gym and some of the parents would stand on the upper level watching us," said Liz Muir, 68.
Her brother Ed James, 67, met his wife Sandy James, 66, at the school.
"A lot of it hasn't changed," Ed James said.
He said his and Liz's father had attended the school in the 1920s. It was built in 1924. Looking out the front windows on the building though, he said they used to sled down the large hill before the road and houses were built.
They would also walk home for lunch, often donning galoshes to avoid the mud.
People reliving memories or on the lookout for a good find, ambled through the buildings. Yellow tickets marked what was up for sale from the schools in an online auction.
More stories were being swapped at Jackson School.
"It's kind of sad. I was a teacher here for 35 years in the same room," Nancy Vross said.
Classroom 4 in Jackson was all hers. Fresh out of college 39 years ago, she said she remembered looking forward to the first time in her life when she wouldn't be going to school.
"I remember having my interview. I was very nervous," she said.
Vross remembered the principal called her to the school on a Friday and showed her room four where there were tall stacks of textbooks on the desks. The following Monday school started and her idea of finally being out of class was gone.
Years later her husband John Vross would be principal at the school. He too called up fond memories, saying the halls were always quiet.
"You hate to see it go. This was a great school," he said.
Valerie Clay and her grandson Jeffrey Poling, 13, who was transferred to Washington in fourth grade, ventured through the empty classrooms of Jackson, taking a gander at blackboards scrawled with goodbye messages in white chalk.
"We really miss this school; it was a real neighborhood school. When he went to Washington it was heartbreaking," Clay said.
Auctioneer Rich Basinger said he's expecting to see a couple hundred people file through the schools. He's hoping they'll bid online for stack of chairs, over-head projectors, desks, chalkboards and the like, all of which has a total appraised value of about $40,000. The auction will remain open at www.basingerauctions.com until Monday.