The Story of the University of Chicago

Chapter 11 The University Continues to Build

Thomas W. Goodspeed


DURING the early years of the University its buildings multiplied so fast that they seemed to rise by magic. But no one of them all ever went up except under the spur of necessity and by hard days' work, and their number was always too small. More were always needed than could be provided. Within less than six years after the opening on October 1, 1892, the attendance of students increased more than threefold—from 742 the first year to 2,307 in 1897-98—and continued to multiply. The president's house was built in 1895 and marked the close of the first building period.

The first structure completed during the second era of building was the Haskell Oriental Museum. It was in connection with the raising of the Ryerson Fund that Mrs. Caroline E. Haskell, of Chicago, the widow of Frederick Haskell, gave $100,000 for building the Museum. This gift with its accretions of interest fully paid for the building, which cost $103,017. The cornerstone was laid July 1, 1895, and one year later, July 2, 1896, the Museum was dedicated. The presence of

(129) the Founder, Mr. Rockefeller, added to the interest of the day. The building was formally presented to the University on behalf of the donor by Professor George S. Goodspeed of the Department of Comparative Religion. In accepting it, President Harper said this of the circumstances under which the gift was secured:

.... I remember distinctly a warm day, about the first of June, which the secretary of the board of trustees and myself had spent in the city from early morning until late in the afternoon without meeting success of any kind. . . . . As we were returning home, it was suggested that perhaps our friend, Mrs. Caroline E. Haskell, who had before expressed great interest in the cause, might be willing to assist in the work we were trying to accomplish. It was found that she had been considering very seriously the question of erecting a building upon the grounds of the University in memory of her husband, and in a few minutes she expressed her willingness to furnish the money for the erection of such a building. It was this gift that made certain the securing of the million dollars [involved in the raising of the Ryerson Fund].

After the lapse of thirty years I recall vividly that day and that incident. Mrs. Haskell was living at the Victoria Hotel then standing on the northwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Van Buren Street. As we were passing the hotel Dr. Harper seemed half-inclined to stop and call on her. Only one month before she had given us $20,000 to endow the Haskell Lectureship and it was hoping against hope to expect more from her at that time. But as the president

(130) seemed not indisposed to call I urged him to do so, express in person his gratitude for what she had so recently done, and tell her something of the difficulty we were having in securing the help we needed. He made the call alone, as I did not then know Mrs. Haskell, and I waited for him in the park across the street. We were not asking for buildings and Dr. Harper did not suggest a building to her. It was she who suggested it to him. He was not gone more than twenty minutes before he returned radiant and enthusiastic. The matter of a building as a memorial of her husband had been in her mind and she welcomed the call as an opportunity to talk with him about it and in a quarter of an hour her half-formed purpose crystallized into a contribution for the Haskell Oriental Museum. At the dedication of the building an address was delivered by Rabbi Emil G. Hirsch, who spoke with "eloquence, learning, and deep conviction" on the importance of oriental, and especially of Semitic, studies for the understanding of man's religious capacity and destiny. The prayer of dedication was made by Rev. Dr. W. H. P. Faunce, of New York City.

For nearly thirty years this building was used as the lecture hall of the Divinity School as well as for Museum purposes. In it also was the office of President Harper during the last ten years of his life, and of President Judson from 1906 to 1912.

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The early years of the history of the University formed a period of extraordinary interest to those who had charge of its affairs. One manifestation of enlightened liberality was followed by another until they were well-nigh bewildered by these exhibitions of the public favor. Something new, unexpected, surprising, was almost continually coming up. Nothing more gratifying occurred during those early years than the great offering, made by Miss Helen Culver, of Chicago, in 1895, of properties which she estimated at $1,000,000, "the whole gift to be devoted to the increase and spread of knowledge within the field of the Biological Sciences." Miss Culver said:

Among the motives prompting this gift is the desire to carry out the ideas and to honor the memory of Mr. Charles J. Hull, who was for a considerable time a member of the Board of Trustees of the Old University of Chicago. I think it appropriate therefore to add the condition, that, wherever it is suitable, the name of Mr. Hull shall be used in designation of the buildings erected, and of endowments set apart in accordance with the terms of this gift.

Only a year before this great donation was received, what was originally known as the School of Biology had been divided into the following independent departments: Zoology, Anatomy, Neurology, Physiology, Botany, and Paleontology. The need of buildings for these important departments was distressing. It had been recognized from the begin-

(132) -ning. It was never absent from President Harper's mind and every effort had been made to supply the need. It was therefore like a sudden flood of light breaking through the clouds of a dark day when unsolicited Miss Culver offered $1,000,000 for buildings and endowments for the Biological departments. A special building committee was at once set to work and plans were quickly prepared for the Hull Biological Laboratories.

The laboratories, as finally built, were four in number, the Zo÷logical, the Anatomical, the Physiological, the Botanical, and were located at the north end of the original site of four blocks, midway between University and Ellis avenues. They formed a complete quadrangle. The four laboratories stood on the four corners, Zo÷logy on the northeast, Anatomy on the northwest, Physiology on the southwest, and Botany on the southeast. A cloister, constructed of the same material as the laboratories and perfectly lighted by many windows, connected Botany with Zo÷logy and Physiology with Anatomy. A covered gateway leading into the quadrangle separated, and at the same time connected, Zo÷logy and Anatomy. The four laboratories were thus, in effect, under a single roof. On the south connecting Botany and Physiology was a high iron fence with an ornamental gateway, opposite the imposing north entrance, opening into the general University grounds. The space thus

(133) inclosed by the fence, the laboratories and the cloisters received the name of Hull Court, as the group of buildings was denominated the Hull Biological Laboratories. Were it not for the donor's desire to have the name of Mr. Hull emphasized, the quadrangle itself would long since have been formally designated the Helen Culver Quadrangle and it will be strange if it is not known by this name to posterity.

The cornerstones of the four laboratories were laid July 3, 1896, in connection with the University's Quinquennial Celebration. The laboratories were finished in the spring of 1897, and dedicated on July 2, in connection with the Nineteenth Convocation. A dedicatory address was delivered in Hull Court by Professor William H. Welch, of Johns Hopkins University, on "Biology and Medicine."

In presenting the buildings to the University Miss Culver made a most impressive address, to which President Harper responded with great feeling. In addition to Anatomy, Physiology, Zo÷logy, and Botany, the Departments of Pathology and Bacteriology found their homes in the Hull Laboratories, and the work of the medical students was here conducted. It was particularly gratifying to the authorities that these laboratories were built for the sum appropriated—$325,000. The impressive gateway was the gift of the architect Henry Ives Cobb.

A week after the University opened its doors to

(134) students on October 1, 1892, the secretary made the following statement:

The first week has been signalized by a new benefaction, so splendid that it will be forever memorable in the annals of the University. Charles T. Yerkes has arranged to build one of the completest astronomical observatories in the world. When the Old University secured its telescope with an objective eighteen and one-half inches in diameter, it possessed the largest instrument then in existence. Since that time telescopes have been made having objectives of twenty, twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight, thirty, and thirty-six inches. There seeming, just at this time, to be an opportunity to secure a telescope having an objective of forty inches, President Harper laid the matter before Mr. Yerkes. With that quick and generous liberality which has distinguished the patrons of the University, Mr. Yerkes at once took steps to enable the University to secure this great prize.

It was expected, at the time, that the Observatory would be built as soon as the architect, Mr. Cobb, could prepare the plans. It soon developed, however, that the work could not be hastened. At the outset it was supposed the Observatory would be located in Chicago. But it soon appeared that there were insuperable objections to a city location, the chief one being the smoke of Chicago which so often obscured the sky. Inquiries were therefore begun as to the best location outside the city. An astonishing interest was immediately manifested in many communities to secure the location of the Observatory in their neighborhood. Many offers of land and money were made to

(135) obtain the prize. The question of the location having been referred to Mr. Ryerson and President Harper, they carefully considered the proffers made and the advantages and disadvantages of the various locations suggested. After conferring with eight of the leading astronomers of the country and considering the advantages of the twenty-six locations proposed, the committee recommended and the board selected Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, as the site of the Observatory. John Johnston, Jr., gave some fifty-five acres of land near Williams Bay, a site beautiful for situation, overlooking, from a lofty elevation, almost the entire area of the lake.

The great object glass of the telescope was made by Alvan G. Clark & Sons, of Boston. The telescope was made by Warner & Swasey, of Cleveland, and was exhibited in the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893 in the Manufactures Building. It was not until after long delay that the plans were completed and the building of the Observatory was begun in the spring of 1895. It was this delay that brought the Observatory into the second era of building. Meantime, President Harper had received from William E. Hale, of Chicago, the father of Professor George E. Hale, the following letter:

CHICAGO, June 30, 1894


It gives me pleasure to offer to give to the University of Chicago the astronomical, physical, photographic, and mechanical

(136) equipment of the Kenwood Observatory, to be taken by you where it is now located on Forty-sixth Street, at such time as your Observatory buildings are prepared to receive it.

The equipment consists of a twelve-inch equatorial telescope, with visual lens, and twelve-inch lens for photographic work, including its pier and dome. Also a spectroheliograph and other attachments for solar and stellar observations and photography.
Also other physical, electrical, photographic, and astronomical apparatus and fixtures, together with a machine shop for fine mechanical work, all of which I value at thirty thousand dollars.
You are at liberty to use the above apparatus, and the building in which it stands, until such time as your new Observatory is ready to receive it.

Yours very truly,


This gift was regarded as a very valuable addition to the facilities and equipment of the plant. The new Observatory was finished in 1897, and formally delivered by Mr. Yerkes to the University, through Mr. Ryerson, the president of the board of trustees, and dedicated on October 2 τ of that year. Several hundred guests witnessed the ceremonies of dedication.

In addition to the contribution of Mr. Hale, the Observatory and its equipment cost $325,000. Miss Catherine Bruce, of New York, enriched it with a ten-inch photographic telescope with building and dome. Mr. Yerkes crowned his benefactions for it with a bequest for its maintenance.

In 1897-98 the attendance of women students had increased from less than two hundred in 1893 to more

(137) than a thousand. There had come to be a most insistent call for additional residence halls to receive these growing numbers. It was under these circumstances that Mrs. Elizabeth G. Kelly, who had already given $50,000 for a women's hall, once more brought the needed help. On May 17, 1898, Mrs. Kelly sent to the trustees a letter in which she said:

President Harper and Mr. Goodspeed having called my attention to the great desire of the University to complete the erection of the hall for women between Kelly and Beecher halls, I hereby agree to turn over to the University, for this purpose, securities amounting to $50,000, on the following conditions, viz., The building shall be called Green Hall, in memory of my parents. The University shall pay me five per cent per annum on the said sum of $50,000, viz., $2,500 annually during my life. The University shall place in the hall a memorial tablet bearing the names of my father and mother. At my decease the fund thus contributed is to be the property of the University of Chicago.

Mrs. Kelly's reference to "the hall for women" relates to a movement among the women of the city, inaugurated during the raising of the million dollars in ninety days by the Chicago Woman's Club and participated in by the Fortnightly to raise a fund for a building for women students from a considerable number of subscribers. A number of women contributed to this fund, Mrs. Martin Ryerson, Mr. Ryerson's mother, giving $10,000, and the foundations of the building were put in between Beecher and Kelly when those halls were built. It was to

(138) complete this building, begun six years earlier, that Mrs. Kelly's second contribution was made. The plans for the three halls required that the central section, which was the one to be finished, should be five stories in height, Beecher and Kelly each being four. It also exceeded them in length. Its total cost, including the foundations, laid six years earlier, was $72,000, and Mrs. Kelly in the end very generously provided this entire sum. Green Hall provided a home for sixty-seven women. It was opened to students on January , 1899.

The assumption by Mrs. Kelly of the entire cost of Green Hall turned back into the treasury the fund contributed for the building for women students by women of Chicago, and this fund having been wisely invested and the income added to the principal, it had increased in 1924 to a little more than $50,000. A number of the donors to the fund had expressed the hope that the women of the city would make such additional contributions as would erect a worthy building as a memorial to Mrs. Kate Newell Doggett, one of the most public-spirited and highly esteemed women of early Chicago. The fund is a challenge to women to complete an undertaking which women have begun.

This second period of building had covered something more than three and one-half years. It added to the University's material equipment seven buildings. With their furniture, and fully equipped for use, they

(139) represented an expenditure of about $900,000. They were given to the University by its Chicago friends. The money for them had been secured almost without effort. Much of it had been proffered without solicitation, and the rest had been given quite as freely. When this second era of building ended, less than eight years had passed since the breaking of ground for Cobb Hall in November, 1891. The twenty buildings erected during these seven years had cost, with their equipment, more than $2,200,000, all except $100,000 contributed by the friends of the University in Chicago. These seven years included both the first and second building eras of the University. They witnessed an astonishing outpouring of money for the cause of education. They showed in an extraordinary manner the appeal the new University had made to the imagination, the idealism, and the spirit of altruism of Chicago. During these years the benevolence of its people was awakened and developed as never before. Every institution of religion, education, and charity profited by that awakening, and all subsequently found a response to their appeals before unknown. The University helped Chicago to find itself as a city of idealism and benevolence, fired it with the enthusiasm of giving, and opened wider the fountain of wealth flowing in increasing volume to bless the city and the world.


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