Lyman Trumbull Elementary School

One hundred years ago, Chicago’s rapid population growth necessitated the construction of additional schools. In the Edgewater section of Lakeview, the Andersonville school had seriously deteriorated and residents were calling for something to be done for the education of their children. This was the progressive era, when concerned social and civic activists worked to improve living conditions for the city’s residents. Public schools were to be designed to provide an appealing physical environment that would promote learning. Chicago’s Board of Education was in tune with the times and, in 1905, the board members appointed Dwight H. Perkins as its chief architect.

Mr. Perkins had been associated with the firm of Burnham and Root during the construction of the World’s Columbian Exposition. He also designed the Steinway Building in the Loop and set up offices there. This became a gathering place for what was to become the Chicago Architectural Club. This group articulated what was to become modern American architecture in the 20th century.

As chief architect for the Chicago schools, Perkins and his associates presented planning innovations and designs that were incorporated into the schools that were built between 1907 and 1910. Trumbull School is one of those. Trumbull was constructed in 1908 and the cornerstone laid, but the building opened for students in 1909.

The school was named for Lyman Trumbull, a Senator and statesman from Illinois who served the people of Illinois in various capacities from 1840 until 1873. In the period of the Civil War, he was associated with Abraham Lincoln and campaigned for him. Later, as a Senator and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he introduced the resolution to abolish slavery that was to become the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. After his retirement from the Senate in 1873, he continued to practice law in Chicago. He became a public figure again in 1894 when he spoke out against the privileges of the rich and the exploitation of the poor.

The School building is distinctive because of the strong massing of its design. The façade facing Foster Avenue shows this in the massive column shapes on either side of the entrance. The recessed entrance and vertical windows above are crossed by the massive entablature at the roof line. The massing and vertical design is contrasted by the bands of light and dark brick which alternate on the sides of the building above the single colored brick base.

Trumbull’s internal structure is designed around a central core – its auditorium. While a beautiful geometric pattern presently adorns the three story ceiling, the original design incorporated a glass paneled dome to allow for natural light in both the auditorium and third and fourth floor classrooms. This was altered in the 1950s when maintenance became an issue. The interior renovation of the school began in 2001. The exterior renovation of the school began in 2003 under the direction of Principal Robert Wilkin. The school has been prepared to complete its 100th year and begin its second century.