Alumna’s efforts bring attention to school’s status
Published Thursday, April 03, 2008
WEB EXTRA: Interactive map of endangered sites | Related video
Other sites on the 2008 list include Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs; Assembly Hall at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and The Mill in Lincoln, a 1929 sandwich shop on the original Route 66.
The Ursuline Academy building has not been used since the 150-year-old high school was abruptly closed last year, a decision made by Lisle-based Benedictine University. Benedictine owns the campuses of both Ursuline and Springfield College in Illinois, which share a two-square-block campus in the 1400 and 1500 blocks of North Fifth Street.
The endangered buildings are all connected to one another. They include the original, three-story Italianate schoolhouse built in 1867, a Romanesque chapel added in 1895, and the Ursuline conservatory, built in 1908. William Conway, Springfield’s first licensed architect, designed the 1895 and 1908 additions.
Making the list gives no legal protection to a structure but helps raise public awareness, said Landmarks Illinois president David Bahlman, who led a press conference at the state Capitol on Wednesday announcing the 2008 list. The organization also acts as a liaison among preservation advocates, grant sources and approved building contractors.
When Ursuline Academy closed, Benedictine University President William Carroll said demolishing the 1867 building was not out of the question. His office would not comment Wednesday on Ursuline’s placement on the Landmarks Illinois list.
“There still are no plans for the building,” said Susie Doddek, director of college advancement at Springfield College in Illinois.
There has been talk of constructing a new building just north of Ursuline, next to SCI’s Dawson and Weaver halls, but Doddek said that wouldn’t affect the Ursuline building.
In any case, she said, any construction has been put on hold until the college’s trustees complete a 10-year strategic plan that itself will take two years to develop.
Ursuline might never have made the Landmarks Illinois list if it weren’t for Sarah Jones, a graduate of both Ursuline Academy and SCI. Jones also worked at SCI as an enrollment coordinator until she left in 2005.
Jones wrote her master’s thesis on the history of the Ursuline campus and sent an application to the National Trust for Historic Preservation last November. The National Trust forwarded Jones’ application to Landmarks Illinois (both share the same office building in Chicago). Landmarks Illinois contacted Jones in February.
Jones said very few examples of Conway’s work are left in Springfield. In addition to designing Ursuline’s conservatory and chapel, Conway donated the large stained-glass window in the music hall, a replica of Raphael’s altarpiece of St. Cecilia.
“This alone is worth saving it,” said Jones, 28.
But Jones said Ursuline is an important part of Springfield history. Ursuline nuns started the then all-girls school in 1857, at a time when educating women was not a priority. A decade later, they purchased the current campus property on what was then Springfield’s far north end. Ursuline became a coed school in 1981.
Jones belongs to a small group of people working to persuade Benedictine to preserve the academy.
But after the press conference, Bahlman, Jones and Springfield preservationist Jerry Jacobson, who all gathered in front of Ursuline, expressed their doubts. Bahlman said Benedictine has a poor track record when it comes to preservation.
During the 14 years Landmarks Illinois has been issuing its list, it has nominated 143 sites. A total of 38 are considered to have been saved, but 25 other nominated buildings no longer exist. The remaining sites all could still go either way, Bahlman said.
To learn more about the 2008 list and previous ones, visit Landmarks Illinois’ Web site at www.landmarks.org.
Anyone who would like to join the effort to save Ursuline can e-mail the group at
Pete Sherman can be reached at 788-1539.
Catholic services return to Ursuline
At least one part of the former Ursuline Academy campus is being returned to use for Catholic church services.
A new Young Adult Mass on Sunday nights has moved to the former Ursuline chapel on the campus of Springfield College in Illinois-Benedictine University.
“We’ve been averaging about 60 people every Sunday night, and the SCI/Benedictine leadership decided to reopen the Ursuline Sisters’ Chapel so that we can accommodate a growing crowd,” said Kevin Broeckling, SCI’s dean of student affairs. “We are really pleased to be providing this venue for some of our own students, some students from other colleges and for young adults in the area.”
The Young Adult Mass — known as YAM — is held at 8 p.m. every Sunday. The service has a target audience of people between the ages of 18 and 35, but anyone is welcome.
Ursuline chicken dinner to be held
Despite the demise of Ursuline Academy, the 35th annual Ursuline Academy Chicken Dinner will be held as usual Sunday, May 4.
Knights of Columbus Council 4175 and the Ursuline Academy Foundation will sponsor the dinner, which will be held on the K of C grounds, 2801 West St. on Springfield’s north end.
The Ursuline foundation provides scholarships for students in Catholic elementary and secondary schools.
The dinner will be from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 4. Tickets are $8 per adult and can be ordered in advance (children’s tickets must be purchased at the door).
Checks for advance tickets should be made payable to Knights of Columbus 4175 and sent to: Knights of Columbus 4175, Chicken Dinner, 2801 West St., Springfield, IL 62707.
Local endangered buildings
Landmarks Illinois’ “Ten Most Endangered” program is designed to bring attention to sites threatened by deterioration, neglect, insufficient funding or inappropriate development. It has been in place since 1995.
In all, 147 properties have been listed. Some have been saved, others have been demolished, and the future of many remains in doubt.
Here are Springfield-area properties that have been named to the list through the years and their current status.
2007 — Broadwell Tavern (Clayville Inn), near Pleasant Plains — still threatened
2006 — Greene County Almshouse, Carrollton — still threatened
2005 — Gillett Memorial Arch, Elkhart — stabilized
2004 — Eldred House, Eldred — still threatened
Judge Taylor House, 902 S. 12th St. Springfield — still threatened
2001 — Manske-Niemann Farm, Litchfield — still threatened
2000 — Central School, Lincoln — demolished
1997 — Ferguson Mansion, formerly at 815 N. Fifth St., Springfield — demolished
1996 — Chatterton’s Block, west side of Old Capitol Plaza, Springfield — saved
1995 — Enoch Building, Carrollton — demolished
Source: Landmarks Illinois
Troubled bulidings for 2008
Landmarks Illinois’ 2008 list of Illinois’ most
nAssembly Hall, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
nBurlingame House, Eden
nChicago Daily News Building
nGermania Club and Theatre, Chicago
nGunners’ Mate School, Great Lakes Naval Base, North Chicago
nMichigan Avenue Streetwall (along Michigan Avenue in Chicago from Randolph to 11th Street)
nThe Mill, Lincoln
nSpoon River Bridge, Bernadotte
nUrsuline Academy, Springfield
nWrigley Field, Chicago