Awhile back, I posted interior sketches of Academy Hall (home of the Jacksonville Female Academy), ca. 1890. Lamenting the lack of photographs and the ability to see what these rooms really looked like, I remained hopeful that one day photos would surface. The wait is over. And yes, there are photos of women’s dorm rooms.
The JFA and the Illinois Conservatory of Music merged with Illinois College in 1903. Women continued to live at Academy Hall, but those pursuing a liberal arts degree attended co-educational courses with the men of Illinois College. This left the classrooms in Academy Hall for music and art courses through the Conservatory.
The 1907-1908 catalog for the Conservatory continues to promise students and their parents that Academy Hall is a state-of-the-art college facility. Centrally located in the “most desirable” part of town and equipped with modern and “sanitary” comforts, the “advantages of living in Academy Hall are many and positive.” Parents could rest assured that “the systematic use of time is secured; irregularities and exposures dangerous to health are avoided; habits of order, neatness, and punctuality are cultivated. Living with others in a fine home gives a breadth and polish that a young woman can scarcely acquire elsewhere.”
Polish. What’s not to love?
Street views. College Avenue still looks about the same but with a bit more traffic and paved streets.
Who can forget the three parlors in Academy Hall? Cozy and tastefully decorated.
The library in Academy Hall (pictured top) isn’t quite as impressive as the sketch in the 1890 catalog, and it pales in comparison to the facility at Illinois College (pictured bottom). Women had access to the IC library.
Our first real glimpse into classroom space. The one disadvantage here is that we can’t see color. It looks a bit drab to us, but given wall paper from the early 20th century, it was likely quite bright and colorful.
Here we have recital space. The top photo is from Jones Hall, constructed in 1896 on the IC campus (which was torn down in the 1980s), and which is clearly a superior space to that in Academy Hall, constructed in the 1850s.
Okay, here’s a real gem where we get to compare physical education space for men and women. Clearly, men had some fancy equipment while the women had open space. Women rarely used equipment for exercise and were most likely to participate in dancing or calisthenics.
And now for the student life photos… drum roll…
Oh, how this photo makes my heart sing. Look at all their stuff! Here are our polished young ladies. I’m most interested in the top right photo, where the student is reading by lamp light, but seems to have some interesting contraptions in her room. What they are, I’m not sure. The best part is how they’re posing. You know they weren’t that studious all the time.
And finally, IC students enjoying the Osage Orange Festival, a tradition that continues today. It commemorates a day in 1887 when the young men were ordered to pull up Osage Orange hedges bordering campus. In return for their labor, the faculty treated them to a picnic. Now it continues as an important event for graduating seniors, alumni, and families.