Henry Demarest Lloyd School
2103 North Lamon Avenue
Historical profile by Julia S. Bachrach
When Dwight H. Perkins took over as the Chicago Public Schools’ head architect in 1905, the city’s population was surging. The president of the Board of Education suggested that Chicago’s demographic changes “are so rapid and uncertain that the construction of school buildings can not possibly be made to follow the movement of population without some time interval.” (1) The following year, Perkins reported that the “number of school children not properly housed or housed at all” was so extreme that he considered the situation “an emergency” to which his department would respond “without delay.” (2) Among several strategies for building quickly and efficiently, he suggested using one set of plans for several different buildings with only minor modifications to the exterior designs to distinguish them.
Lloyd School was one of six considered a “Key type.” (The other new buildings similar to Key School were Hayt, Budlong, Oglesby and Warren schools.) There were two versions of the type—12-classroom and 24-classroom versions. Perkins and his department designed Lloyd as a 12-classroom building to provide seats for 576 students. Perkins explained that the 12-classroom type was especially practical because it could be planned as one-half of the larger version and “6 rooms can be added at either end at any time without disturbing the school sessions.” (3)
Composed of light colored brick with boxy massing and streamlined Gothic Revival style details, Lloyd School’s appearance was considered modern at the time. Perkins recognized that the facades of his new schools were much less ornate than previous school buildings. With a limited budget and the responsibility of producing many structures, he wanted his buildings to convey a sense of “simplicity and strength of construction.” (4)
The Chicago Daily Tribune reported on September 1, 1907, that schools would soon open for the city’s quarter of a million students. This population had increased not only due to the recent growth of the city, but also because of new compulsory education laws. (5) The article boasted that five brand new buildings were ready for the school year. Lloyd School was one of those five.
The Board of Education named the school in honor of Henry Demarest Lloyd (1847–1903) a journalist and progressive political activist who focused on economic and labor issues. Born and raised in New York, Lloyd settled in Chicago in 1872. He became a literary editor of the Chicago Tribune and married Jessie Louise Bross, daughter of William Bross, a part-owner of the newspaper. A prolific writer devoted to social reform, Lloyd produced a series of highly-regarded exposés on the Standard Oil Company which began with an 1881 article in The Atlantic. His work inspired other reformers, and at his funeral Jane Addams said “his search for the accomplishing of good was untiring.” (6)
Within a few years of its completion, Lloyd School became overcrowded. In 1913, Arthur F. Hussander, who had recently been officially appointed as the Board of Education’s head architect, supervised the design of a 12-room addition to the building. Despite the addition, overcrowding continued to be a problem.
During this period, the City of Chicago’s Special Park Commission worked closely with the Board of Education to provide playground improvements for many schools. This often included hiring “a trained director at each ground who devotes as much time as possible to the training and leadership of the children in gymnastics, calisthenics, and athletic sports.” (7) Through this partnership, in 1916, the City Architect Charles Kallal prepared a standard set of plans for a one-story playground shelter to be constructed on the grounds of dozens of Chicago Public Schools. (8) The modest buildings provided offices to the playground directors, a small clubroom for indoor activities, and bathrooms. In addition to Lloyd School, the numerous playgrounds that received new shelters at the time included Burley, Audubon, Nettlehorst, Swift, and Waters schools.
To alleviate Lloyd School’s overcrowding, officials of the Board of Education considered purchasing a nearby site for a branch school. At the time, temporary branches were a common way for the Chicago Public Schools to address neighborhood population fluctuations. In 1917, as officials were considering the acquisition of another Lloyd branch property, renowned landscape architect Jens Jensen suggested an innovative school-park plan for the site.
A Danish immigrant who is now recognized as dean of Prairie style landscape architecture, Jens Jensen (1860–1951) believed that Chicagoans, especially children, needed to commune with nature. He criticized existing playgrounds as unimaginative paved spaces devoid of trees and other plants. As the General Superintendent and Chief Landscape Architect of the city’s West Park Commission, Jensen had designed well-planted small parks such as Dvorak and Eckhart parks for dense West Side neighborhoods. He recognized that modest open spaces such as these could not serve the needs of overcrowded neighborhoods. Serving as Consulting Landscape Architect in 1917, he proposed a visionary idea called the Lloyd School Neighborhood Centre.
Jensen suggested that rather than just building a small Lloyd Branch School at Laramie and LeMoyne avenues, the Board of Education should work cooperatively with the West Park Commission to create an expansive 23-acre campus that would serve both educational and recreational needs. While the Board of Education considered purchasing land near the intersection of Laramie and Lemoyne avenues, Jensen recommended that the West Park Commissioners should “purchase two blocks lying east and one block lying south of the school site.” (9) Jensen suggested that the site should feature an L-shaped building with pavilions for both educational and recreational programming including “gymnastics, dramatic performances, social activities,” as well as public bathing facilities, a “library, art gallery, and rooms for debating and planning.” (10)
Jensen proposed a lushly planted landscape that could be used by about a thousand children at one time. He designed extensive naturalistic water feature near the building that could be used for swimming in the summertime and ice-skating during winters. The plan included playfields edged by trees, shrubs, and flowers that were meant to emulate the Midwestern prairies. Jensen suggested that some of the densely planted areas would have paths where children could play games and “receive some of the mysticism of the forest.” (11) The plan included children’s gardens, “players’ hills” for “out-of-doors drama and music,” a shady “old folks’ corner,” tennis courts, and a series of circular stone benches for council fires “where young and old could gather for play and song or serious debate.” (12)
Jensen’s plan for the Lloyd School Neighborhood Center was never realized. Instead, the Board of Education acquired land several blocks south of the proposed site to build a completely separate elementary school. Designed by school architect Arthur Hussander, this building, known as John Hay School, was constructed in 1920. The West Park Commissioners did acquire the site that Jensen had recommended. When the commissioners finally built the property which became known as La Follette Park in 1927, they did not follow any of Jensen’s recommendations. Although Jensen’s forward-thinking school park plan was completely ignored at the time, it did foreshadow a later initiative. During the post WWII period, the Board of Education and Chicago Park District built the city’s first jointly created and managed school-parks. Among these were Wildwood, Oriole, Mount Greenwood, and Carroll schools.
Lloyd School suffered from overcrowding for years. In the late 1990s, the Board of Education agreed to construct an addition. The $12.7 million project provided 82,000 square feet of new space. Although it is extremely modern in design, the addition relates to the old building in its scale and in the way in which bays of windows are articulated. A recessed connector provides a link between the old and new, nearly windowless building.
- Fifty-first Annual Report of the Board of Education for the Year Ending June 30, 1905, published by the Board of Education of the City of Chicago, May, 1906, p. 12.
- Fifty-second Annual Report of the Board of Education for the Year Ending June 30, 1906, published by the Board of Education of the City of Chicago, May, 1907, p. 19.
- Ibid., p. 20.
- Fifty-fourth Annual Report of the Board of Education for the Year Ending June 30, 1908, published by the Board of Education of the City of Chicago, 1909, p.13.
- “Schools ready for 250,000: And it’s expected that 240,000 will attend on Tuesday,” Chicago Daily Tribune, Sept. 1, 1907, A5.
- “Many Honor Henry D. Lloyd: People Fill Auditorium, While Speakers Praise Late Reformer,” Chicago Daily Tribune, November 30, 1903, p. 2.
- A.W. Beilfuss, “Beilfuss Talks About Chicago’s Playgrounds,” Chicago Tribune, June 10, 1910, p. 6.
- “Real Estate Transaction 1, No Title,” Chicago Daily Tribune, June 28, 1916, p. 22.
- Forty-ninth Annual Report of the West Chicago Park Commissioners for the Year Ending December 31, 1917, p. 10.
- Jens Jensen, A Greater West Park System, 1920, p. 48.
- Ibid., pp. 48-51.