Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Normand S. Patton moved to Chicago after graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1874. He first worked briefly as a draftsman for William Le Baron Jenney, and then practiced alone for several years. In 1877, Patton returned to the East Coast, where he worked for the Supervising Architect to the U.S. Treasury and gained experience in iron construction. Patton returned to Chicago in 1883, where this knowledge served him well when he advised Jenney regarding the ironwork for his Home Insurance Building, often called the “first skyscraper.” Beginning in the mid-1880s, he formed a series of partnerships: Randall & Patton (Randall died after only three months); Patton & Fisher; Patton, Fisher, & Miller; Patton & Miller; and finally Patton, Holmes, & Flinn.
Patton was highly regarded in and beyond Chicago. He specialized in educational, public, and religious buildings. His work included the Oak Park and River Forest high schools, collegiate buildings for the Armour Institute (now the Illinois Institute of Technology), Beloit College, Oberlin College, and Wheaton College; the Chicago Academy of Sciences; First Congregational Church in Oak Park; and First Presbyterian Church in Rockford, Illinois. He was a founding member of the Chicago Municipal Improvement League and the Association of Western Architects, which later merged with the American Institute of Architects. Elected a Fellow of the AIA in 1889, he also served on its board of directors for four years. Patton contributed widely to the leading architectural journals of his time, writing, for example, about the fire proofing of schools.
In late 1896, the Chicago Board of Education appointed Patton to succeed August Fiedler as school architect. The December 17, 1896, Chicago Daily Tribune called Patton “one of the best known architects of the city,” noting that “his reputation extends to many of the larger cities of the country.” During his two-year tenure, Patton designed numerous schools, including Lake View High School, Andrew Jackson (now Galileo Math and Science Academy), and Frank J. Jirka (now Pilsen Community Academy).
On August 13, 1898, The American Architect and Building News declared that: “Chicago is constantly putting up good school-houses, and with a good man like…Patton in charge of the work there is no reason why its school-buildings should not be equal to any.” The publication highlighted the Kosciusko School as “a model school in more senses than one.” Notwithstanding this acclaim, however, the Board of Education terminated Patton’s service only a few months later, in November 1898, asserting that he had undermined the board’s power by accusing influential Building and Grounds Committee Chairman Joseph Downey of having a financial conflict of interest with regard to brick for school construction.