On This Site: The History of the Illinois Industrial School for Girls and Solomon Cottage

Illinois Industrial School for Girls

Prospect Park is located on the historic grounds of the Illinois Industrial School for Girls.  The school opened in Evanston, IL in 1877 and moved to 40 acres of farmland in Park Ridge in 1908.  The architectural and historical significance of this property earned it a place on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

Twelve acres of the original 40 remained as the school campus until 2012 when the school closed.  The land and buildings were acquired by the Park Ridge Park District following a successful referendum.  The newest park in the Park Ridge Park District system was named Prospect Park and opened to the public in 2016.

History of the School

The Illinois Industrial School for Girls first opened on November 1, 1877 in Evanston, IL and was one of the first industrial schools in the Chicago area.  The goal of the school was to safely house and teach basic skills in the industrial arts to dependent and destitute young girls.  Parental guidance was also provided.

The school eventually owned 40 acres in Park Ridge and for 25 years (1883-1908) this land was used exclusively as a farm to support the school.

The school operated in Evanston until in 1908, when school to build a new campus on the land in Park Ridge.

The first building erected for the school in 1908 was Solomon Cottage, now the Park Ridge History Center.  This building was named after Hannah Solomon, President of the School at the time of its relocation.  The cottage served as a student receiving facility with living quarters for a house mother and where seven girls also lived and acclimated to the School program.

By 1914 a total of eight school buildings were erected, six of which were designed by the noted Chicago architectural firm of Holabird & Roche.  The buildings were built around a circular drive and included a receiving cottage, five group homes for the girls and a house mother, a school building for the domestic sciences with administrative offices, and an academic school building.

From 1908 when the first buildings were erected in Park Ridge, until 1930 approximately 26 acres at the north end of the property were used to grow food for the school and for sale. The farmland that was part of the original school campus was sold to a developer in 1952 and the funds were used to finance major renovations to the campus buildings.

Three of the original school buildings remain today:  Wohlers Hall, Emery Cottage and Solomon Cottage.

Wohlers Hall

Emery Cottage