PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — One long-standing building in Peoria is finally coming down.

On Wednesday morning, the tear-down process began for the old McKinley School building on West Adrian G. Hinton Avenue. This process started after two days of salvaging historical pieces from the school that will be kept by the Peoria Historical Society.

City leaders and residents came out to witness the boom from the bulldozer ripping through the blighted building that was first constructed back in 1904.

Although many agreed the demolition was necessary, some former McKinley students said it was an emotional process to watch the wreckage.

“It’s sad,” Lois Smith, Peoria resident and former McKinley student, said. “I’m trying to hold my tears back but it has got to come down sooner or later.”

Denise Jackson, First District City Councilwoman, said the sooner the better.

“This building has been like an old dinosaur,” Jackson said. “It has sat empty, it hasn’t been a public school in probably 40 or 50 years and so we’re just excited.”

Jackson has been advocating for the building’s demolition for years and it was one of her goals while initially running for a seat on the city council back in 2021.

She said American Rescue Plan funds, which the council approved, finally led to the demolition which is costing $943,700. Jackson said the process made a way for the future of the south end.

“We’re hoping to see new redevelopment,” Jackson said. “Long awaited redevelopment on Peoria’s south side.”

Jackson said she hopes redevelopment will reverse the area’s declining population issue and inspire more people to move to the south end.

Residents said they hope once the final brick comes down and the dust settles, the ending of McKinley will spark a new beginning for the area.

“I hope they build houses there in the community,” Smith said.

“It seems like every time they tear down something it’s a vacant lot,” Howard Kinerd, Peoria resident and former McKinley student, said. “Let’s bring the south end of town back to life again like it was before.”

Jackson said new housing plans are on the horizon for the area.

McKinley’s demolition is anticipated to end by the end of May and the vacant Harrison School building on West Krause Avenue is next on the chopping block.