Latin School of Chicago

Latin Magazine Anniversary Issue: 125 Years. Our Stories. Our School.

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Page 29 of 163

THE EARLY YEARS Background: Boys school students in the late 1890s. 1888-1922 "It was nine o'clock. The boys had just come in from play summoned by a peremptory gong, proclaiming loudly that the school year of 1888-89 was about to begin." – Founding Head of School Mabel Slade Vickery Huntington Blatchford, one of Latin's first students. 28 L AT I N M AGAZINE Chicago Latin School first opened its doors on a crisp and bright October morning in 1888. A group of 10 boys – all about 10 years old, some accompanied by their parents – met in the library of the home of Mr. and Mrs. Eliphalet Blatchford at 375 LaSalle Avenue to start the school year. It was a time of immense growth in Chicago. The city had gone from a population of 299,000 in 1870 to more than 1 million by 1888 – with the catastrophic fire of 1871 only briefly slowing development. Enterprising men were making their fortunes, and a growing number of wealthy families were becoming part of the fabric of the city. In the late 1870s, Potter Palmer, a local business leader, started buying up land along the lake just south of Lincoln Park as a real estate investment. This was an undesirable stretch of swampland called Frog Pond, which Palmer filled with sand and mud. He encouraged his friends and acquaintances to move north from areas like Hyde Park and Prairie Avenue, and by the 1880s and '90s, many of Chicago's most prominent families were settling in the new neighborhood, which became known as the Gold Coast. The area was quiet and residential, made up of elm-shaded streets lined with large mansions surrounded by beautiful grounds, flanked by neat alleys with carriage houses and well-kept horse stables. Among the new residents of the Gold Coast was Eliphalet Wickes Blatchford, a successful businessman and president of the Chicago Theological Seminary, who helped to establish the Newberry Library. Blatchford, his wife, Mary, and other prominent families who had moved to the neighborhood were frustrated by what they perceived as a lack of educational opportunities for their children in Chicago – convinced that a proper education should emulate the academic programs that they admired in the best East Coast schools. Mary Blatchford, along with her neighbors, Mrs. John C. Coonley, Mrs. A.C. McClurg, Mrs. Cyrus McCormick, Mrs. Emmons Blaine and Mrs. George Isham, decided to form their own school.

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