WIN: Trumbull School Exterior and Interior Elements Landmarked (Chicago 7 2013)

Chicago Waldorf School / former Lyman Trumbull Public School Building, by Dwight H. Perkins in 1909 at 5200 N Ashland Avenue. Photo Credit: James Iska
Trumbull School Expanded Landmark Designation Report. Photo Credit: City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development

The former Lyman Trumbull Elementary School, now known as the Chicago Waldorf School, has become a Designated Chicago Landmark. Designed by renowned Prairie School Chicago architect Dwight H. Perkins in 1909, Preservation Chicago has long advocated for Chicago Landmark designation for this iconic school building and contributed to the extensive process toward designation.

Preservation Chicago played a decisive role at a recent Commission on Chicago Landmarks hearing where Ward Miller compellingly made the case for the Chicago Landmark designation to include not only the exterior but also key interior elements such as the auditorium, auditorium vestibule and staircases. Thanks in part to this testimony, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks and Landmarks Division staff amended and expanded the scope of the report and the protections afforded by the Chicago Landmark designation.

Preservation Chicago, along with many students, community members and stakeholders were disappointed with the decision to close Trumbull Elementary School in 2013 which ended a 104-year legacy in the Andersonville community. Trumbull was closed along with 48 other schools across Chicago, and it was included as a 2013 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. However, the current reuse of the building as a Waldorf School is an outstanding preservation outcome and is the result of the hard work of many stakeholders.

Over a period of many years, Preservation Chicago was deeply engaged in the effort to keep the Trumbull School Building from harm and to find a compatible reuse option. We worked in close collaboration with community members, multiple schools including the Chicago Waldorf School, members of the Edgewater Historical Society and partner preservation organizations. We outreached to elected officials including former 40th Ward Alderman Pat O’Conner, former DPD Commissioner Andrew Mooney and Mayor Emmanuel to ensure the building’s protection and the desired outcome of a Chicago Landmark designation.

Preservation Chicago wishes to recognize the important contributions to this outcome from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, the Department of Planning & Development-Historic Preservation Division, Commissioner Reifman, Eleanor Gorski, Dijana Covello, Matt Crawford and Alderman O’Conner.

We also wish to thank the Chicago Waldorf School for becoming the stewards of an amazing Chicago treasure, for embracing the Trumbull School/Dwight Perkins legacy, and for their commitment to ensure the preservation and care of this remarkable school building for decades to come.

Located at 5200 N. Ashland Avenue, the Lyman Trumbull School on Chicago’s North Side, and its twin George Tilton Elementary School on Chicago’s West Side, were both designed by Dwight Perkins. Perkins is considered to be one of Chicago’s great architects and is best known for his school building design during his tenure as Chief Architect for the Chicago Public School system between 1905 and 1910.

Trumbull School represents a truly modern structure, bold in its forms, with scores of two-toned buff-brick-banding wrapping the entire exterior emphasizing the horizontal nature of the building. Large square towers, essentially vertical volumes extend from the ground to above the roofline and also indicate the principal entries to the school building. These towers were once topped with pyramidal-shaped hipped roofs which are now lost, but they should be restored during a future renovation.

Perkins’ school designs were radical for their day and later became a building standard and common practice employed in schools across the nation. Every inch of the building was completely and thoroughly thought-out in its design and function. Perkins wanted his school buildings to be community centers with centrally located auditoriums located on the first floor of the building. This was a radical departure from other public schools of the period which were typically located on the topmost floors and in attic spaces.

He was committed to the importance of natural light in classrooms and designed classrooms with high ceilings and large windows. He also made improvements to common spaces, including hallways and staircases, which were flooded with natural light from skylights.
He recognized the importance of recess, fresh air and playtime for children and encouraged the integration of playgrounds and outdoor space into his school designs, another departure from the typical school design buildings of his time period. He designed restrooms for students on every floor as opposed to the convention of the time which placed restrooms in the basement. While these design principles seem common sense and obvious today, they were quite innovative for his time.

Additional Reading
Historic Andersonville school gets a fresh lease on life; Chicago’s Lyman Trumbull Elementary School closed in 2013, Jay Koziarz, Curbed Chicago, 2/21/18

(FORMER) LYMAN TRUMBULL PUBLIC SCHOOL BUILDING 5200-5224 N. Ashland Ave. / 1600-1612 W. Foster Ave Chicago Landmark Designation Report


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