Our History

From McCormick Theological Seminary to Seminary Townhouse Association*.

In 1859 Cyrus McCormick, inventor of the McCormick Reaper, lured a Presbyterian Seminary to Chicago from Indiana by providing a $100,000 donation for four professorships. He hoped to create an institution that would support his conservative ideals. In recognition of continuing financial support the institution was named McCormick Theological Seminary in 1888.

A 20 acre site in Lincoln Park was donated to the Seminary by Sheffield, Ogden, Diversey, and Lill. Students moved into the first building, Ewing Hall, when it was finished in 1864. By 1888 McCormick Hall, Fowler Hall, the Chapel and several houses for professors had joined Ewing Hall along the west side of Halsted.

As McCormick Theological Seminary expanded over the years it added the townhouses from 1884 to 1892 as rental units to provide additional income from the endowment. Over time many of these homes became faculty residences and a few were used for married student housing.

There were many more expansion and redevelopment plans, some existing only on paper. The Virginia Library, which backed up to 832 Belden, was built in 1896. To make room for it, the single family house at 835 Chalmers was moved from Belden. The first all encompassing plan was developed after Mrs. McCormick announced a gift of a new gymnasium in 1916. This led to a 50 year plan calling for demolition of almost the entire campus and rebuilding in the Collegiate Gothic style. As the first building in this plan, the gym was completed in 1929. It was demolished to make room for the CTA platform expansion in 2008. The cornerstone for the next building in the grand plan, the Commons, was laid on the exact day of the 1929 stock market crash. This forced the end of the rebuilding plan after the Commons was completed in 1930. In 1950 the Seminary added the current Corcoran Hall.  McCabe Hall was built as married student housing in 1959, requiring that an entire row of townhouses in the 900 block of Belden be torn down. This building was part of a 1957 plan that again called for demolition of all of the buildings on campus from the 1800s (including all of the STA residences). The McGaw Library (now used for modern languages) and the Chapel (DePaul’s concert hall) were built in 1953, followed by the Stone Building (DePaul’s School of Music) in 1968.  For an aerial view of the 1957 campus >>Click Here.

The Seminary Townhouse Association (STA) was formed in 1974 when some of the residents learned that the Seminary was selling the 20 acre property and moving to Hyde Park. They formed an organization that developed by-laws with the goal of purchasing the property from the Seminary, reselling the homes to individuals and families who would live in them, and to finding institutional buyers for the rest of the buildings on the campus. Half of the units were spoken for by the original residents. Membership was then opened to others. A lottery was needed to determine which of the additional members would be eligible to buy the remaining homes. But it was difficult to find buyers for the institutional buildings.

After the Seminary agreed to sell the townhouses separately from the institutional buildings, STA purchased the homes in 1975. McCormick Theological Seminary moved to Hyde Park the same year. The west end of the original 20 acres was bought by DePaul University in 1976, and in 1977 DePaul purchased the east end. The west end tennis courts and library were demolished and quickly filled with buildings which were the following: Sullivan Athletic Center, the Sheffield Parking Facility, and the 958 Fullerton Residents and Commercial Building.

The STA residences are individually and privately owned.

*This article sourced from the pamphlet “Within the Wrought Iron Fence” by Elizabeth K. Ware 1999