Evanston Academy, which closed in 1917, had a history that dates back to 1859, when the Preparatory Department of Northwestern University, or the Preparatory School, was opened. The creation of the department was proposed by the Faculty of the College of Liberal Arts and approved by the Trustees of the University in 1857. In the absence of many quality secondary schools in the Chicago area and Midwest, a preparatory department was felt essential in ensuring that Northwestern would receive students prepared to do college work.
The first male students entered the department in 1859, and the first female students were admitted in 1869. The first principal was Warren Taplin. The Preparatory Department originally consisted of a three-year pre-secondary school and a four-year secondary school. The original age requirement for entrance to the preparatory department was ten, but it was later raised to eleven, then twelve, and finally thirteen. The Trustees of the University directed the administration of the Preparatory School, while faculty of Northwestern's College of Liberal Arts formed its curriculum.
The Preparatory School initially shared facilities with the University. In 1871, the original Northwestern building, called Old College, was enlarged and turned over completely to the use of the school, which occupied the facility until 1899. In that year, the Preparatory School, which had been renamed the Academy in 1892, moved into a much larger building, Fisk Hall, which it occupied until its closing (Fisk still serves as a Northwestern University classroom building). A boarding facility, Hatfield House, was opened in 1906.
In its early years, the school featured a classical curriculum that emphasized Latin, Greek, history, and mathematics. Gradually the curriculum was expanded to include modern languages and natural and physical sciences, and English became a major course requirement. In later years, manual training, mechanical drawing, bookkeeping, commercial law, stenography, and typing were added.
In 1873, Herbert Franklin Fisk (1840-1916) was named principal, and under his leadership for the next thirty-one years the Preparatory School grew and prospered. Fisk was an ardent campaigner against the use of tobacco, and required his students to sign pledges to abstain from its use. Fisk stepped down as principal in 1904, but remained on the Northwestern faculty as Professor of Education until his death.
In 1905 the Academy, which was known popularly as Northwestern Academy, was renamed once again and became the Evanston Academy. During World War I, Northwestern University, citing decreased income and the prospect of receiving fewer students to the Academy, decided to close the institution at the end of the 1916-1917 school year. President Thomas F. Holgate of Northwestern explained that the growth of nearby high schools had made the need for a preparatory school less important.
Further information pertaining to the Academy's history, curriculum, student body, student life, and extracurricular activities may be obtained by consulting the University Archives' holdings of The Academian and The Bear; the Evanston Academy Academic, Administration, and Campus Activities Records, 1896-1917 (Series 38/7); the Northwestern University Academy Faculty Minute Book, 1904-1910 (Series 38/5); the Evanston Academy Student Records, c. 1900-1917 (Series 38/3); the Philomathia Society Minute Books, 1869-1893 and 1904-1917 (Series 38/4); and the Herbert F. Fisk Papers, 1874-1917 (Series 38/1).
The University also holds a variety of general reference materials relating to two other affiliated secondary school institutions of Northwestern University, the Elgin Academy (located in Elgin, Ill.) and Grand Prairie Seminary (located in Onarga, Ill.). For records of an earlier effort to provide a preparatory school for Northwestern, see the records of the Northwestern Female College.
Found in 4 Collections and/or Records:
This series consists of general academic and administrative records of the Evanston Academy; records pertaining to Academy-sponsored extracurricular activities including records of student organizations and student publications; and clippings pertaining to the Academy, its faculty, and students. These records and clippings span the years from 1896 to 1917 but fall mainly within the years from 1906 to 1915.
The records of the Evanston (Illinois) Academy (a preparatory school run by Northwestern University) consist of historical materials, correspondence, catalogs, circulars, bulletins, programs, and brochures.