Old El Honored with Historic Marker

plaque dedica
Shown left to right, Mike Hardy, Bob Smith, Margaret Kerchief, and Mary Prange, who unveiled the new historic marker at the Old El.

By Kaye Bennett

The Vicksburg Community Schools administration building, better known as Old El, on July 26, became the area’s third site to be officially recognized for its historical significance to this community.

The Vicksburg Historical Society’s new project, Historic Footprints, is identifying local buildings and sites of historic significance, then marking each with a plaque outlining its role in the community. Historic Footprints committee members are Bonnie Holmes, Ted Vliek, Kristina Powers Aubry, Mike Hardy and Margaret Kerchief.

Dedicated on October 22, 1908, the Old El building was located near the site of Vicksburg’s first schoolhouse, a log structure built in 1842. The “new” school, which opened to students in grades K-12 in 1909, was state-of-the-art, with 600 electric lights, central forced air heat, a gymnasium, and up-to-date (indoor!) restrooms. It was Vicksburg’s only school building until the high school opened on Highway Street in 1952; it continued to serve as an elementary school until 1978, after which it became the administration building.

The plaque describing the history of the building is mounted on a large rock next to the sidewalk along Kalamazoo Street, in front of the building. The rock was donated by Bob Smith, current president of the Historical Society, and was put in place by Bob Collins and Randy Schippers.

Earlier this year, plaques commemorating the McElvain Hotel (now Vicksburg Community Center) and the Smalley Building and Jail (now Rawlinson’s Appliances) were unveiled. Plaques will be mounted on those buildings in the near future.

On August 19, the fourth plaque in the project will be unveiled, marking the 100th anniversary of Prudential Nursery. The Historical Society’s August meeting will be held at Prudential Nursery at 7 p.m. on that date, with Charlie and Cindy Krill of Prudential speaking.

Donations to support this project can be sent to Vicksburg Historical Society, P.O. Box 103, Vicksburg, MI 49097 (Put “Historic Footprints Project” on the memo line).

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