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Chicago Teachers
College North
1896 - 1965

 

Dr. Benjamin Willis, The General Superintendent of The Chicago Board of Education, recognized that the existing campuses would not be satisfactory for long.  He recalls:

"It wasn’t long after 1953 that the birth rate began to spiral upward, and it was apparent that we’d need a lot more teachers. It was apparent that we couldn’t increase the potential of  teachers from the south side. The city was growing bigger, and transportation was growing more difficult. So, I thought the important thing would be to have a second institution on the north side".  

The plan was to build a college on Chicago’s northwest side. That facility would eventually become NEIU’s present campus. As an interim plan, classes were taught first at Schurz High School and then at Sabin Elementary School, both on Chicago’s northwest side.

People referred to Willis as "Big Ben, the Builder" and Willis must have seen this as his opportunity to continue on that legacy. Since the city already owned the land that NEIU’s campus presently resides on, it seems as though this would be a natural place to build. Part of the land was occupied by a home for truant boys, while another part was occupied by The City of Chicago Tuberculosis Sanitarium.

In 1955, the Board of Education put a bond issue before the citizens of Chicago. Its aim was to raise 6 million dollars to create a north side teachers college. It passed by 75 per cent of the vote.

The plans for the new campus were to be nothing short of a technological wonder. Teachers were to be given the opportunity to teach over television, learn over television as well as be able to work behind the scenes to create sophisticated audio visual graphics.

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 The plans for the new campus were to be nothing short of a technological wonder. Teachers were to be given the opportunity to teach over television, learn over television as well as be able to work behind the scenes to create sophisticated audio visual graphics. By March of 1960, the process of building the new campus began.  

Like  most new buildings, the new college had its share of troubles. It was common, say the teachers of the time, to get to your classroom ready to start your class and find six workers there busily working. Teachers would regularly find themselves unable to use their offices, because there was no locks on the doors.

The Administration Building, commonly referred to as "The Beehive Building" was nearly uninhabitable in the late afternoons. The noon day sun would heat up the south side offices to temperatures of 115 degrees. This was considered odd, since Perkins and Will maintained that the overhangs on the outside and above the windows were scientifically calculated to prevent sunlight from entering the building. Since there was no drapes (or even drapery hooks) many of the teachers took to hanging newspaper, art paper or whatever they could find over the windows. A photo of the award-winning building had to be delayed while the hodgepodge of window dressing was removed from the windows.

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It was common to find the halls cluttered with debris, obstacles blocking routes and signs saying "Students Stay Out".  One student who arrived the first day, called the new school, a glorious mud boat.  

 During the next two years, The Chicago Teachers College North would grow dramatically, both scholastically as well as socially. By 1963, the college would foster a vast plethora of clubs and organizations, including, a football team, Orchesis, a Yearbook, a Chorus and a newspaper.

From its earliest inception until 1963, The Chicago Teachers College had one mission: to train grade school teachers for The Chicago Public Schools. That was all about to change, as was the focus of the school.

To learn more about The Chicago Teachers College and how it was turned over to The State of Illinois  advance to The Illinois State Teachers College page.

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Cook County Normal School
1867 - 1896

Illinois Teachers College North
1965 - 1967

Northeastern Illinois University Today
1967 - Present

 

This site was created by James McDunn.  Information within this site was taken from the writings of Jerome Sachs, Ph. D,
Melvin George, Ph. D. and Duke Fredericks, Ph.D.  Photos compliments of The NEIU Archives.    © 2000  James McDunn