Todd Seminary for Boys

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The Todd Seminary for Boys, later the Todd School for Boys, was an independent school located in Woodstock, in the U.S. state of Illinois.


The Todd School for Boys was founded by Reverend Richard K. Todd, who brought from his native Vermont, the New England philosophy of "plain living and high thinking, and in harmony with Puritan traditions"[1] Reverend Todd moved to Woodstock, Illinois from Vermont in 1847 to be pastor of a newly formed Presbyterian Church. In 1848 he opened a day school in the parsonage, for both boys and girls. This parsonage school continued to 1859, the student population ranged between 6 and 15 students. During this time Reverend Todd also served as the School Superintendent for McHenry County from 1849-1855.[2]
In 1858 the plans for the Parsonage Institute were announced in the Woodstock Sentinel[3] to form a boarding school. The Parsonage Institute grew in students until, in 1861, the Woodstock University was incorporated by the state legislature. In 1864, the title of the school was again changed, this time to become the Woodstock Collegiate Institute. At this time the student body consisted of between 80 and 149 students, mostly from the McHenry County area.[4]

In 1867 the school underwent "extensive improvements" at which time it became exclusively a seminary for boys, and became known as the Woodstock Institute. It held this name until 1873 when it became known as the Todd Seminary for Boys. The final name change occurred in 1930 when it became the Todd School for Boys.[2]

Noble Hill joined the institution in 1888 as Reverend Todd's assistant. Hill resigned a year later due to differences in opinions with Todd.[5] A year later Hill returned with a promise from Todd that he would have his full support. Reverend Todd's wife died during the winter of 1891 and the Reverend now in his 70s[6] went to live with his son who was a professor at the University that would become Stanford University.

In June 1892 Noble Hill arranged to purchase the Seminary from Reverend Todd, at a cost of $20,000.[5]

In 1929, Noble Hill transferred ownership of the school to his son Roger Hill, called Skipper, and retired to California. As headmaster, Skipper Hill developed the Todd School for Boys into a progressive educational institution based on his philosophy that all young people were "created creators". In addition to academics the school's educational plan offered a 300-acre working farm; a radio station; a theatre company with facilities on campus and tour buses that took the company throughout North America; sound motion picture production facilities; and a nearby airport with a flight simulator and small aircraft for students who were interested in flying their own plane.[7]:16–17

The New Yorker described Todd in October 1938:

Todd is a preparatory school of considerable antiquity, now run on severly progressive lines. The present headmaster, Roger Hill, a slim white-haired, tweed-bearing man, who looks as if he had been cast for his role by a motion-picture director, has never let the traditional preparatory-school curriculum stand in the way of creative work. All the boys spend as much time as they want in the machine shop, the print shop, the bookbindery, or the school theatre.[7]:18–19

The Todd School for Boys closed in 1954.

Todd School Campus[edit]

In 1937 the Todd School Campus consisted of an area of Woodstock that was bound by McHenry Ave, Seminary Ave, Northampton St and Mansfield Avenue.[8] In addition the school purchased in 1904 twenty acres (81,000 m2) of woods 1 mile (1.6 km) north of the school grounds.[9] These woods were commonly referred to as the "Seminary Woods" in school publications.[1]

Main buildings on the campus included Wallingford Hall, Clover Hall, Rogers Hall, Grace Cottage, the gymnasium, Headmasters' Cottage, West Cottage, Cozy Cottage and North Cottage.[1] The school also had an airstrip located to the east of the campus, where Marian Central Catholic High School is now located.[10]

From 1912, the school operated a summer camp in Onekama Township, Michigan called Camp Tosebo. There was also a winter campus on Marathon Key, FL they called "Todd Island".

With the demolition of Grace Hall in 2010, Rogers Hall is the sole remaining building from the original campus. Rogers Hall, once a classroom building with a 200-seat theater, is now an apartment building.[11]

Notable alumni[edit]

  • Orson Welles entered the school at the age of 11 in 1926, until his graduation in 1931. While attending Todd he was an active member in the Todd Troupers, a traveling dramatics group, and served as the group's artistic director at the age of 13.[12] Welles collaborated with Headmaster Roger Hill to write the Everybody's Shakespeare series of plays that provided a simple adaptation for high school student's Shakespeare productions. Between 1932-1942 over 100,000 copies of these plays were sold.[13]

Following graduation from Todd, Welles returned occasionally to Woodstock to see Todd student productions.[12]

Northwest Herald July 10, 1987
Time, March 9, 1942
Northwest Herald July 10, 1987

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Todd School Prospectus, 1922
  2. ^ a b Development of the Todd School, 1937
  3. ^ Woodstock Sentinel 9/7/1859
  4. ^ Development of the Todd School, 1937. p 31.
  5. ^ a b Development of the Todd School, p. 27
  6. ^ Federal Census, 1870
  7. ^ a b Tarbox, Todd, Orson Welles and Roger Hill: A Friendship in Three Acts. Albany, Georgia: BearManor Media, 2013, ISBN 1-59393-260-X.
  8. ^ Development of the Todd School, 1937.
  9. ^ Development of the Todd School, 1937. p.35
  10. ^ Chicago Tribune, September 5, 2008
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b Northwest Herald July 10, 1987
  13. ^ Time, March 9, 1942

Hoke, Joel (1937). Development of the Todd School. Chicago: University of Chicago. 
Todd Seminary for Boys Prospectus. Todd Seminary for Boys. 1922.  Channick, Robert. "Activists say dorm filled with history". Chicago Tribune (September 5, 2008): Metro p. 1.