School District #175
The history of District 175 reaches back over 150 years ago, making it the oldest school district in St. Clair County. In 1828, eight men signed an agreement to build and furnish a school house located at the current address of 35 North 75th St. This one room rural school was in continuous operation until May 27, 1896, when it was destroyed by a tornado. As soon as the debris was lifted, the community erected a new one room elementary school made of brick in its place. They retained the bell from the original building and renamed the new stronger building Harmony School.
The Harmony School expanded in 1924 with the addition of two classrooms. In October of 1933, the three teachers and their 62 students moved into a more modern two story building with four classrooms and provisions for a cafeteria. This two story school was located on the same site. This seemed to be a wonderful improvement at the time, but the district soon began expanding rapidly as the district changed from rural to urban and soon two new schools – Twist Hill School and Atlee-Ogle School – were added to the Harmony District.
Due to this rapid growth, Harmony School added 3 more classrooms in 1949 and another major addition in 1953. This second addition in 1953 included 6 classrooms, a multipurpose room to be used as a cafeteria and a gym. This building stayed as is until March 17, 1970 when it was closed due to structural damage caused by mine subsidence. The new Harmony School was completed in 1973, but did not last as a full school through the 80’s. Eventually, all elementary students were sent to Ellis Elementary School and middle school students to Emge Jr. High School. Since it’s “closing,” the Harmony building has been a site for the St. Clair Regional Office of Education as well as a center for our PreK and Birth-3 Programs.
As a District, Harmony District (Harmony, Emge, and Ellis) reached its peak in the early 1970’s, when a total enrollment reached over 1500 students. Since that time, Harmony-Emge District 175 has reached a more stable enrollment of between 800-900 students. Currently, Harmony-Emge District 175 is comprised of two functioning school buildings: Ellis Elementary (PreK-4) and Emge Jr. High (5-8). The Harmony building is still a part of District 175, but no longer sees any students come through its doors.
Ellis School was built in 1962 with an addition built in 1965. Emge Jr. High was first built in 1957, with additions in 1967, 1972 and its final addition in 1996.
THE BELL – The bell that currently stands in the gym lobby of Emge Jr. High was presented to the district by Mr. Ollie Kosar and procured through the personal efforts of Mr. Bill McGrath. This bell was used in the original Harmony School that was eventually destroyed by the tornado of 1896. Fortunately, the bell survived and became part of the new Harmony School until its closing in 1970. Today, this bell remains a symbol of growth and educational progress within the community of Harmony-Emge District 175.