LOOKING BACK: A Brief History of Genoa-Kingston Schools

Genoa-Kingston Schools
5 min readJan 26, 2023
An old post card showing a two-story, white school building. The building is surrounded by trees and green grass, and the sky is blue. The post card says “High School, Genoa, Ill.”
Vintage post card depicting Genoa High School [https://www.cardcow.com/438931/genoa-illinois-high-school-grounds/]

Although some locals still refer to the current Genoa-Kingston High School as the “new” high school—in reality this year marks 20 years since its first use during the 2003–2004 school year. It can be easy to think that “just yesterday…” high schoolers were receiving their education at what is now Genoa-Kingston Middle School, but a lot can change in what feels like the blink of an eye.

So, we decided to take a look back at the rich history of Genoa-Kingston CUSD #424—back when the schools were mostly one-room schoolhouses in different districts—and how education in the area looked over 100 years ago. From the year that Kingston school had only one graduate, to the first time the U.S. flag was flown over Genoa schools, we point out some of the fascinating facts that helped make GK what it is today.


A black and white photo of a two-story, white schoolhouse. It is surrounded by trees.
Old Genoa High School. (Illinois High School Glory Days https://leopardfan.tripod.com/id487.html)
  • Genoa first settled in 1835 and incorporated as a village in 1876.
  • In 1877, Mr. and Mrs. David Gibbs were announced to teach at the Genoa Public School, “as they come recommended as teachers of superior merit and ability,” according to a newspaper article at the time. School began approximately between Nov. 10–15, with a brand new building expected to be completed by then. Scholars from other districts desired to attend the school, which was going to have grades. “There are many of the famers’ sons and daughters who will be glad to pursue a course of higher studies in the Genoa high school rather than go a long distance from home,” the paper wrote. “There is no reason why Genoa should not supply all the advantages necessary to secure an education sufficient to qualify our youth for all the practical purposes of life.”
  • The school would be the only graded school in the north part of DeKalb County for several years. Over the years the building would see some enlargements and improvements.
  • In 1881 Genoa High School held its first commencement ceremony at M.E. Church in Genoa.
  • 1890 was the first time the American flag is hung over a Genoa school. The flag was described as being 10 ft. x 25 ft. and was a present from the Ladies’ Relief Corps.
  • As of 1894, there were 190 pupils in the district.
  • 1909 saw its largest graduating class yet—a record 21 students!
  • Parts of Sycamore and Kingston were almost incorporated into the Genoa school system as early as 1919, however a measure to bring the idea to fruition did not pass.
  • In July 1918, the Genoa High School building that had been built in 1877 burned down and was a “total loss.” The fire was attributed to school employees who had been burning brush not far away. Firefighters were able to save some portion of the primary school building, which was a bit further away on the same lot. The township high school was temporarily moved to Prospect. Residents speculated a new school and consolidated school district would likely ocurr in the near future.
  • In 1946, the C.O.G.S moniker was chosen after Senior Vernon Hasty submitted the idea during a naming contest. Second place was the “Jets” by student Pat Bolz.


An old black and white photo of a 2 1/2 story schoolhouse. There is a tree with no leaves in front. There is a line of people standing at the base of the building.
Kingston School in the early 1900s. (Illinois High School Glory Days https://leopardfan.tripod.com/id158.html)
  • Kingston was settled in 1835, became a community of homes and businesses in 1876, and officially became a village in 1886.
  • Prior to 1879, a school was already established and operating as part of District №6. The school house was 22 ft. x 28 ft.
  • A measure was passed to build a new building for its 76 students.
  • In 1877 Kingston’s school was also graded.
  • It was a very popular school, according to local papers. “Kingston school must be considered gilt edged, by the number of personal applicants besides the numerous applications received from quite a number of different states.”
  • In 1881 a new school house is built.
  • In 1892 — Kingston school holds its first commencement ceremony for a single graduate: Miss Emily J. Lentz.
  • In May of 1895, the school house burned down in the middle of the night. The school originally cost just $2,410 to build and it had no insurance. It was considered “one of the best schools for its size in the country” thanks to some additions that had been made to it.
  • Later that year, work began on a new school.
  • By 1897, there were 101 students in the district.
  • As of 1912, the number of graduates had risen to 12, the largest in the school’s history yet!
  • In 1935, the school once again burned down and a new building was built.
  • During its time in operation, Kingston had school colors of red and white and their nickname was the Tigers—which was also the name of the Kingston baseball team.

Genoa-Kingston Consolidation

  • In 1947, Genoa and Kingston agreed to combine their school districts into one, while keeping the Cogs name, mascot, and school colors.
  • In 1954, the former Kingston School building, which housed its high school students, burned down. The current Kingston Elementary School was built on the same grounds.
  • Today, Genoa-Kingston CUSD #424 operates four schools (a high school, middle school, and two elementary schools), has upgraded technologies and state-of-the-art equipment in each building, offers a breadth of extra-curricular and athletic programs, and serves over 1,400 students. Proudly, we are still the COGS!
The exterior entrance to Genoa-Kingston High School. The school name is written at the top, with brick pillars underneath. There is a set of doors at the end of the entrance coridor. There are a few planters with green plants. The sky is blue.
Genoa-Kingston High School today. (Taken by Genoa-Kingston Schools)
A black and white photo of the old Kingston School. It is two stories tall. There is grass and a street at the bottom of the photo.
A very early photo of a Kingston school. (Illinois High School Glory Days: https://leopardfan.tripod.com/id158.html)
A black and white photo from a newspaper article showing a rectangular brick building that has burned. The building is a school in Kingston. There are some people outside the school looking at it. There is a caption at the bottom of the photo that describes the scene.
The Kingston school that burned down in 1954, which was later replaced by the current Kingston Elementary School. (DeKalb Daily Chronicle: https://www.newspapers.com/image/126597006/)
A color photo of Kingston Elementary School. The brick school has a triangular roof. It also has an entrance with doors and metal pillars that hold up another triangular roof. There is a blue and white sign that says “Kingston Elementary School 1999.” There are some green shrubs, a sidewalk, and a parking lot in front of the school.
Kingston Elementary School today, which is part of the Genoa-Kingston CUSD #424 school district. It was built in the same site as prevous buildings that burnt down. (Taken by Genoa-Kingston Schools)