Seminary campus in snow

View of the Seminary campus from the south, c. 1880.

The Seminary campus was the campus of Shimer College during its first 5 decades, including the Seminary period from October 1854 onward, and the Academy period until the campus was destroyed by fire in 1906. It originally covered 5 acres and was later expanded to 25. Apart from the first building, all structures and landscaping were designed (and often physically created) by Frances Shimer.

The four main buildings were built so as to form a single, cohesive, outward-looking unit. In contrast to the Academy campus that replaced it, the Seminary campus embodied an agrarian, domestic image that was typical for 19th-century women's seminaries.

The brick used in the buildings was from the brickworks of James Hallett, a member of the original Board of Incorporators.[1]


Heating and ventilationEdit


  • in The history of Carroll county, Illinois, 1878, p. 353:
    The warming and ventilating is on the Ruttan improved system. The furnaces being so constructed, it is impossible to make the outer casings red-hot, and consequently the air is never "burned" thus obviating the objection urged against heating by furnaces.
    The supply of pure air from direct outside flues is abundant. This is amply warmed (not burned) by contact with outer cases of furnaces, and from this goes direct to an iron reservoir, about eighty feet long by five feet wide and two feet deep, and from this reservoir supplied to the nine stacks of brick flues, each stack having seven or eight independent flues, each of which supplies heat to a room. Every flue has a damper in the basement, which system of dampers, in connection with the registers in each room, gives perfect control of the heating of the building. Every room is furnished with a thermometer, which the occupants are expected to observe, and when the temperature is seventy degrees Fahrenheit, the register is to be closed. If it falls to sixty-five degrees with register open, the occupant can report to fireman and more heat will be supplied. Thus, a very nearly even temperature (conducive alike to health and comfort) may with very little air be enjoyed at all times.
    The system of ventilation deserves special mention. All the floors through the building are hollow, as also the main partitions from attic to basement. Under every window is a space of perforated base, which gives an opening from every room and hall to the hollow under the floor, which communicates with the hollows in the partitions, and is thus carried down to the foul air room in the basement, which opens directly to a ventilating chimney, some three by six feet in capacity, opening out at the apex of the roof. Thus, the draft of this great chimney upon the entire volume of air in the building naturally tends to exhaust the same from the building. The ventilating openings being at the base of room, where the coldest air and foulest air tends to accumulate, this is. of course, the first to be drawn off, and the pure air from outside, freshly warmed, is drawn upon to supply the air exhausted.
    Thus, as the rooms warm, which they do very rapidly (almost instantane ously on opening the register), and warm air is drawn off by this great chimney draft and passes through the hollows under the floors and down the hollow partitions, the warmth is given out to the floors and partitions, till the entire building is of an equal temperature, the floors and ceilings of the rooms being within a degree or two of the same temperature—a great improvement on the old plan of stove-heated, unventilated rooms, where the "head is baked and the feet frozen." With this system of complete ventilation, capable of changing the entire atmosphere of the building every thirty to sixty minutes, it is apparent that there is no need of open windows, exposing to cold currents, but on the contrary, however closely the windows and doors are kept closed, the more perfect will be the ventilation. Hence, every means are used to make the building close. The walls of brick are thick and hollow, and then furrowed and lathed, to secure warmth and dryness. The windows are all furnished with double sash and outside blinds, all of which contribute to the warmth. In short, this system of warming and ventilating can scarce be improved upon.
  • in "Early Memories Recalled", Louise Moscrip, Frances Shimer Record 38:4, p. 18:
    The rooms of the one to the south were heated by tiny wood stoves. Each week the girls took turns at building their fires in the morning. The other building, a newer one, was heated by a furnace and the rule was that the temperature in each room was to be no higher than 70 degrees.
    A teacher made the rounds every morning to see that the rule was rigidly kept If not, the heat was turned off. That was a "sure cure."



  • in The history of Carroll county, Illinois, 1878, p. 349:
    When the seminary was located, the owners of the lands thereabouts laid off an addition to Mount Carroll, and the town commenced to grow up that way. When the financial panic of 1857 fell upon the country, these improvements were materially checked. Wishing enlarged grounds, steps were taken to secure the vacation as a town plat of that addition, and the seminary interests, by purchase, at $100 per acre, increased its domain there to twenty-five acres. These grounds were enclosed by a substantial fencing and planted with trees, shrubs, vines, etc., until it has become a garden of beauty, as well as an ornament, not only to the seminary, but to the town at which it is located.
  • in "Shimer College History 1853-1950", Rosabel Glass, 1953:
    Miss Wood personally supervised the landscaping and planting of the campus. Twenty additional acres, adjoining the original five, were acquired and the entire rectangular tract planted for both use and for beauty. A line of evergreens was set along the rim of the grounds that stood for years, tall and straight, like sentinels. Within that line were set at intervals maples and other deciduous trees that have become towering giants, every autumn glorious to behold. Between these lines of bordering trees 30,000 osage orange plants were set to form a hedge enclosing the campus. An arbor vitae hedge, put in years later, lined the entrance driveway on either side.
    With the help of an inexperienced boy Miss Wood set out 2,000 evergreens comprizing 15 varieties, 600 deciduous trees of 60 varieties, 1,000 apple trees, 400 pear trees, 300 cherries, 25 crabapples, 1500 grape-vines, beside quantities of small fruit. Every vegetable that flourishes in the Illinois climate was grown in the kitchen garden.
    Beside dotting the campus with beautiful trees she set out many kinds of roses, ornamental shrubs and flowering plants. Later she bought acreage, some distance from the school, on which to grow additional food supplies and develop a nursery. It is said she once worked out all day in a drenching rain to plant orchard trees delayed in transit, fearing they might die unless gotten into the ground as soon as possible.


  • in "All this happened in 1927-1928", Frances Shimer Record 41:6, p. 8:
    The pageant was presented on the pastoral stage provided by the lawns on the south quadrangle between the rows of stately, deep-rooted pines and larch trees planted by the founder herself.


Sanborn fire insurance mapsEdit


  1. History of Carroll County (1878), p. 356

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