Elgin Academy (Elgin, Illinois)

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Elgin Academy
Elgin Academy Old Main.JPG
Elgin, Illinois
United States
TypePrivate, independent
MottoTaking Learning Personally
Head of schoolSeth Hanford (2012-)
Enrollment~425 (main campus)
Team nameHilltoppers
Elgin Academy
Elgin Academy (Elgin, Illinois) is located in Illinois
Elgin Academy (Elgin, Illinois)
Elgin Academy (Elgin, Illinois) is located in the US
Elgin Academy (Elgin, Illinois)
Location350 Park St., Elgin, Illinois
Coordinates42°2′29″N 88°16′40″W / 42.04139°N 88.27778°W / 42.04139; -88.27778Coordinates: 42°2′29″N 88°16′40″W / 42.04139°N 88.27778°W / 42.04139; -88.27778
Area0.3 acres (0.12 ha)
ArchitectQuigley, James; Reeves, Edwin F.
Architectural styleGreek Revival
NRHP reference #76000713[1]
Added to NRHPOctober 08, 1976

Elgin Academy is an independent, coeducational, college-preparatory school in Elgin, Illinois, United States.


The Academy was established by charter of the Illinois General Assembly in 1839 to provide students with a classical education. The Academy's original building, Old Main, was constructed in 1855-6, and is on the United States' National Register of Historic Places. It now serves as a museum of the Elgin Area Historical Society.

The original charter was granted by the Illinois legislature and signed in 1839, only four years after the founding of Elgin. The Academy opened, and has continued, with a non-denominational and coeducational policy. In 1856 the first building, Old Main, was completed at a cost of $19,000 and opened for classes, but the first diploma was not awarded until 1872 when Laura Davidson, the granddaughter of James Gifford, Elgin's founder, earned the honor.[2] Davidson later married Nathaniel Sears and their family became major donors to the Academy.

During the American Civil War seven commissioned officers, six non-commissioned officers, and 21 privates served from the Academy. All together, 153 Civil War veterans, whose names are inscribed on the base of two authentic Union cannons, were associated with the Academy.

In 1874, 274 students were enrolled and high school degrees were offered in the areas of College Preparatory, Normal, English, Classical, Latin-Scientific, and Business. By 1900 the football team, basketball team, and a school newspaper were established. About this time the Academy became briefly associated with the University of Chicago and then with Northwestern University from 1903-1927 and 1932-1943.[2] the Sears family helped build the academy's first gymnasium in 1918. A boarding program ran from 1920 to 1987, with girls allowed to board starting in 1941.[3]

The Sears family helped build the Sears Art Gallery in 1924 and Sears Hall in 1940. The new gymnasium was built in 1958, North Hall was built as a girls' dormitory in 1962, and Edwards Hall was built in 1969. Old Main was closed in 1972.

Enrollment fell to 85 students in 1973, but has risen to 425 since. In 1984 the program was expanded to K-12, and preschool was added in 1997. The Harold D. Rider Family Media, Science, and Fine Arts Center opened in 2008.[3]


The school occupies a 18-acre (73,000 m2) campus 35 miles (56 km) northwest of Chicago in the Historic District of the city of Elgin. The school's classrooms are largely housed in four buildings:

  • The Harold D. Rider Family Media, Science and Fine Arts Center houses the Kimball Street Theatre and part of the Liautaud-Lyons Upper School program.
  • Edwards Hall houses the Liautaud-Lyons Upper School program.
  • Sears Hall houses the Middle School program.
  • North Hall houses the Early Childhood and Lower School programs.

Other buildings on campus include:

  • Sears Gallery
  • The Gymnasium
  • Raymond House (business office)
  • Penney House (admissions, marketing, development and alumni relations offices)
  • Old Main (the Elgin Area Historical Society and one classroom used daily by the Academy)

A sports field complex, approximately one half-mile away from the main campus, includes tennis courts, grass fields, and 1/5-mile all-weather track.

Old Main[edit]

Old Main is the academy's original building. Rather than restore it in the early 1970s, the academy sold it to the city of Elgin for $1. Today, it is primarily used as the museum for the Elgin Area Historical Society. One room still serves as a regular school classroom for the school.Back then a bell dropped on old main it fell all the way to the 3 floor

The Academy today[edit]

Sears Hall

The Academy offers an academic, college-preparatory curriculum. It is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools and is accredited by both the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the AdvancEd commission. The school is a member of the Lake Michigan Association of Independent Schools, the Illinois Coalition of Nonpublic Schools, the Cum Laude Society, the National Honor Society, and many other academic organizations. It is recognized by the Illinois Non-Public Schools Recognition Program. Its sports affiliations include the Illinois High School Association, the Illinois Council of Private Schools, and the Independent School League.


Sports teams of Elgin Academy are nicknamed the Hilltoppers — Elgin Academy is built on a hill — and the mascot is Foxman, after the nearby Fox River. The sports offered are men's and women's tennis, golf, men's and women's soccer, track, cross country, men's and women's basketball, women's volleyball, men's baseball, and women's field hockey.


  1. ^ National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. ^ a b Welch, Anna (1905). Northwestern University: a history, 1855-1905, Volume 4. pp. 309–335.
  3. ^ a b History of Elgin Academy accessed 2010-05-17

External links[edit]