How it all began

The research, planning and decision-making that led to the opening of Willowbrook in September 1959 started in the late spring of 1950, when the Board of Education launched a study of residential growth in the District 88 communities. The board resolved in January 1958 that the new school be name Willowbrook and that it be occupied, all four grades, for the first time in September 1959.

Willowbrook was initially designed for an enrollment of 2,500. The building that opened for classes in September 1959 measured 383,880 square feet, had 436 rooms, more than 6,000 lockers, 294 miles of wiring, 33 miles of conduit, 47 fire hoses and 168 clocks.

Willowbrook’s enrollment was at or above the 3,000 level throughout the rest of the 1970s, then declined in the following decades. In 1984, the fall enrollment was 2,259; by the fall of 1994, enrollment was 1,814.

From farm fields to playing fields, from basic living to high tech, from a simple development of a small community to a culturally diverse population, the rich tradition of Willowbrook continues to bring a sense of pride, tradition and excellence to an already thriving community.

Do you know…?

Do you know how Willowbrook got its name? It’s possible that the growth of willow trees along the brook could be a reason. We might never know.

Do you know why there is a terra cotta head of Thomas Jefferson (minus the nose) in the outer wall of the Music Wing? It originally ornamented the Louis-Sullivan-designed Garrick Theatre in downtown Chicago. It was transferred to Willowbrook by Mike Venezia (Class of 1963). Mike’s father and uncle were contractors for the razing of the theatre building (1961), and Mike was able to retrieve the Jefferson head for Willowbrook. Thanks, Mike!

Do you know about “The Rock?" The Rock is a VERY important part of the history of Willowbrook. Legend has it when the school was first built, the builders left a stone there about the size of an orange - a large orange. In the beginning, there was only enough room to write one word. After years and years of constantly being painted, it is estimated The Rock has been painted thousands of times, increasing its size to what it is today. No lie!

FAQs about The Rock

Who paints The Rock? Students typically paint it. They paint it for sports teams, people’s birthdays, or even dance invitations.

Can I paint The Rock? Sure! School appropriate, of course!

Can I get in trouble for painting The Rock? Maybe ... neither the school nor the police have issued an official statement. So, paint at your own risk!