Newberry’s Early History
Founded in 1858, Newberry School was the 11th elementary school in the young city and was named for Walter L. Newberry, real estate investor, banker and commission merchant, who donated the land at the corner of Willow and Orchard Streets, the same site the school sits on today. Newberry also generously donated $1,000, creating the newberry fund. The annual interest on this fund provided books and materials for newberry students who could not afford supplies.
Newberry School has been providing quality education to young Chicagoans since before the Civil War! Newberry School was one of only a few to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and was used as a shelter and hospital for those made homeless by the fire. Notable alumni of Newberry include Charles Wacker, namesake of Wacker Drive and Chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission, champion of Daniel Burnham’s Plan of Chicago of 1909.
- The first Newberry building was built in 1858. It was four stories high and made of brick. The first building and the addition to its right were torn down and replaced by the current building in 1937.
- In 1858, the school had places for 1,440 students.
- About 600 people sheltered inside Newberry for several days right after the Great Fire of 1871. Newberry did not burn in the fire.
- Classes at Newberry were cancelled for a month after the Great Fire of 1871 so that the building could be used as a hospital for victims of the fire and housing for people who lost their homes in the fire.
- The Chicago Board of Education named the school after Walter Loomis Newberry. He was a very successful businessman who sold the Board the land the school is on. He also donated money to the school during his life. He left money and instructions in his will to create the Newberry Library after his death.
Did you know
- Walter Loomis Newberry was born in 1804 in East Windsor, Connecticut and came to Chicago in 1833.
- Chicago was incorporated as a city in 1837 and Newberry voted in its first mayoral election. William B. Ogden was running against John H. Kinzie. 709 votes were cast. Ogden won the election, despite Newberry voting for Kinzie.
- In 1853 James H. Rees and E.E. Hundley built a hotel along the lake shore. The owners were standing on the portico trying to decide upon the name when Walter Newberry suggested ‘Lake View’ given its splendid unobstructed views of the lake. Lake View neighborhood is born.
- In 1858, Walter L. Newberry either donated or sold the land at the corner of Orchard and Willow Streets for the school.
- The original Newberry School had 23 rooms, including an assembly hall and could accommodate 1440 students. Designed by G.P. Randall, it was four stories high though there was no basement as sewers had not been constructed in that part of the city by then. The building cost $24,137 to build. The building was heated by stoves until 1872 when steam heat was provided.
- In 1858 a Principal’s salary was $1,250 per annum, teachers made between $300 and $400 a year.
- In 1858, Chicago had 11 salt dealers, 31 saddle and harness makers, 3 gun powder dealers, 3 gunpowder manufacturers, 10 gun and pistol dealers, 9 gunsmiths, 18 soap and candle makers, and there were 4 pickle warehouses.
- In 1858 a ride in a hack or cab (horse-drawn) cost 50 cents for up to one mile for one person, an additional 25 cents for a second person. A ride on the Chicago and Milwaukee Railroad to Milwaukee cost $2.50.
- In 1858 Chicago had 8 daily newspapers and 17 weekly newspapers.
- In 1858 Stephen A. Douglas represented Illinois (a year before the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates) and John Logan (think Logan Square!) also represented Illinois in DC.
- Walter Newberry died of tuberculosis while on a ship to Europe in November 1868. Since there was no refrigeration in those days, his body was preserved in a barrel of rum on the ship for the duration of the journey. He was buried in Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery.
Other historical happenings in 1858:
- A rail link was built to connect Chicago to New York
- Police uniforms were introduced in Chicago
- Chicago got its first paid fire department
- A scarlet fever epidemic started, which would kill over 1,200 people by 1863
- The Lincoln-Douglas debates were held