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Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.). Treasurer



Both Northwestern University's Evanston Campus and the city of Evanston originated with the purchase of 379 acres from John H. Foster by the University's Trustees in 1853. Over the next twelve years the University opened its doors, the village of Evanston was platted, recorded and incorporated, and the University acquired additional real estate holdings. The Trustees purchased the Billings, Robinson, and Snyder farms and were made a gift of lands owned by Orrington Lunt. These holdings made Northwestern the largest land owner in and around Evanston.

The early Trustees, most notably Dr. John Evans, foresaw the growth of the area around the new university and urged that, although Northwestern needed the funds from real estate sales, there should be a portion of the holdings reserved from sale as a long term investment. These lands were to be leased to provide income while the property appreciated and the University's assets grew. This policy was followed well into the twentieth century.

Oversight and manipulation of the University's real estate holdings rested with a number of Trustee committees and University officers. The individuals most involved in Northwestern's real estate transactions were the Financial Agents. Agents were essentially paid fund raisers and income producers who were either elected from the Trustee's ranks or appointed. During Northwestern's early history a number of men were designated Agents, including Trustee Samuel Jewett and Professor Henry Noyes. The two most active agents were Philo Judson and Thomas Hoag. Judson was a Trustee and in 1859 was named Secretary of the Board of Trustees. Between 1852 and 1859 Judson raised money through the sale of scholarships and the management of the University's real estate. For these services he was paid $1000 per year, a sum later raised to $1500.

After Judson's resignation as Agent the duties of Agent were shared by committees of the Board, appointed Agents, and the Secretary of the Board. In 1867 the Treasurer of the Board of Trustees, Thomas Hoag, assumed the additional title of Financial Agent and powers approximating those of Judson in the earlier period. He managed the real estate holdings but no longer raised funds in other manners. He was recompensed on a commission basis for both sales and leases made. This arrangement continued until 1892 when Hoag resigned his agency.

The University's Agent was empowered to make leases for those properties reserved from sale on terms he deemed reasonable, within guidelines established by the Board of Trustees. Guidelines included minimum return rates on a parcels valuation and lease terms. His role was to make the most favorable leases possible. The Agent, upon making a lease, submitted it to the Board of Trustees which had the final approval on all real estate transactions. It is apparent that the early history of Northwestern University and the city of Evanston are inextricably linked through a series of real estate transactions that shaped both the town and the institution.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Rent Books and Ledgers, Vice President for Business and Finance

Identifier: 7/1/4

This series consists of the five Rent Books and one Rent Ledger that document Northwestern University's role as a major landlord in Evanston. The volumes cover the period from 1877 to 1915.

Dates: 1877-1915

University Real Estate Sales Records

Identifier: 7/1/3
Abstract This series consists of one volume in which University real estate sales information for forty one transactions, spanning the period November 22, 1886 to March 10, 1893, are recorded. Entries are chronological and include date of sale, buyer's name, sale price, terms of sale, date land was deeded to buyer, a legal description on the parcel, and remarks. The remarks cover payments made, notes on other University lands purchased by the same individual, and land traded as part of the sale. The...
Dates: 1886-1893

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  • Subject: Real property--Illinois--Evanston X

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Leases--Illinois--Evanston 1
Real estate business--Illinois--Evanston 1
Urbanization--Illinois--Evanston 1