School History

Walter Loomis Newberry

Walter Loomis Newberry, 1804–68, American merchant and banker, b. East Windsor (in the section now South Windsor), Connecticut. In 1822 he entered the shipping business with his brother Oliver in Buffalo, and in 1826 they went to Detroit, where they established a prosperous dry-goods business. In 1833 he moved to the newly established town of Chicago, where he had previously made extensive investments in real estate. He engaged in the commission business, prospered, and later entered banking and also became president of the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad. He was active in civic affairs, founded the Young Men's Library Association, and made numerous philanthropic gifts. His will provided for the founding and endowment of the Newberry Library in Chicago, a free reference library that specializes in the fields of history, literature, music, and philology and has gained an international reputation.

(Source: The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.)

A New Chicagoan

Newberry arrived in Chicago at the age of 29 and was close personal friends with our city's first mayor, William B. Ogden


The original Newberry Elementary School is said to have been at the northwest corner of Willow & Orchard Streets, on the site of our current playground. This original school was used as a hospital during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.


As the City of Chicago grew, so did school expansion. An annex was built to accommodate a rising neighborhood population. By 1918, the total enrollment in the Chicago Public School system had risen to 400,000.

Connections to the Great Chicago Fire

On the nights of October 8th & 9th 1871, much of the city was destroyed by a fire. Newberry School bordered much of the area destroyed, but the building was untouched.
The school served as a temporary hospital for the next month, housing approximately 600 people under the supervision of then-Principal Corydon Stowell. The school was re-opened on November 13th, 1871 with 575 students.
(Source: Andreas, A.T., History of Chicago from the Earliest Period to the Present Time, Vol. 2. The Lakeside Press, 1885.)


Longtime Newberry Principal Corydon G. Stowell poses with the entire staff outside the school for a yearly photograph. In 1880, Stowell also served as the first vice-president of the Chicago Institute of Education, which served as a prototype for the later Chicago Board of Education (Source: Andreas, A.T., History of Chicago from the Earliest Period to the Present Time, Vol. 3. The Lakeside Press, 1886.)


At one point in time, mid-year graduations took place in CPS even into the 1960s. Logistically, students were slotted into either an A or B grouping based on age to keep them engaged. In many ways, it was similar to a semester-type program that followed a child's age instead of strictly academic year. As the city's population continued to rise, this became difficult to sustain.


In this second grade class photo taken in our current school building, the future Mrs. Schmidt sits as a pupil. She went on to spend a 45-year teaching tenure at Newberry! The photo was provided by her daughter.


As the 1930s came to a close, plans were established to demolish the old school building and erect a new, more modern one. As part of the Works Progress Administration established in 1936 by Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, many people were employed to carry our public works projects. Our school was one of those many projects nationwide.


Dr. Mary Ransford (former Principal) kept this article in the school's archives. The local article is from 1962 and lays out a proposed 10-year plan for the redevelopment of the Lincoln Park & Old Town communities, which involved parklands and street widening and more.

1937: Project Completed (for now)

By 1937, the new school was completed and ready for students! However, much like it happened nearly 50 years prior, an addition to our school was constructed in 1959 and runs parallel to Orchard Street.
Newberry was built in Art Deco style. For more information on school building styles in CPS, visit The Evolution of Chicago Public School Design

Danish-born John C. Christensen became the head Chicago Board of Education Architect in from 1926-28, then from 1931-1959. His philosophy of school architecture in the 1920s quotes him saying, ''I'm designing every new public school as a complete and independent unit, absolutely different from every other school in the city." The concept of using a variety of architectural styles for schools in the public school system-such as Neoclassical, Gothic Revival, and Tudor Revival was startling at that time. He also designed many new schools in the Art Deco and Modern styles including our very own Newberry.

(Source: Chicago Public School Buildings Pre-1940 Context Statement)

1859 -1865: Curtis C. Meserve 1865 - 1870: Albert Robbins Sabin 1870 - 1905: Corydon G. Stowell 1905 - 1908: Caroline Straughan 1908 - 1909: Clarence Scudder1909 - 1912: Edith Hugeunin
(Source for 1859-1956: Newberry Academy archives)

School Principals

1912 - 1913: Dudley G. Hays1913 - 1914: Albert W. Evans1914 - 1932: Mary E. L. Fellows1932 - 1933: Nora Doran1933 - 1934: Mary Taylor1934 - 1938: Alma Fick
1938 - 1948: Harry Carr1948 - 1956: Alma Jones1956 - 1960: Russell A. Griffin1960 - 1989: Dr. Mary Ransford 1989 - 1995: Dr. Clifton Burgess1995 - 2010: Renaud J. Beaudoin2010 - present: Linda S. Foley

Ordinances & Early Contracts

Prior to more formal agreements between the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Board of Education, ordinance books were issued to teachers & staff on a yearly basis. Booklets such as this one from our archives lays out rules under which staff members were to comport themselves both in and even outside of school.


Pins such as the one above celebrate our school and our maroon & gold colors. The one photographed dates back to the 1950s & 1960s

Graduation Traditions

The pinning of the Newberry ribbon in maroon & gold is a longstanding tradition for 8th grade graduates

Celebratory Banners

Banners such as this one from our archives hung in hallways and decorated tables during events prior to the 1970s.

(Left) A procession of 8th grade boys from the class of 1956 walks through the gymnasium for the yearly ribbon pinning ceremony.
(Source: Photo donations from Mr. Don Kamps, class of '56)
Images and texts on this page are a mix of primary & secondary sources.
A primary source is material that was created at the time being studied. It can be a document, a recording or an artifact. It serves as an original source of information about the topic. Primary sources are distinguished from secondary sources which usually are analysis, commentary or a filtered account of the topic. Suggested primary resources can include:
DiariesCorrespondenceDescription and TravelPersonal NarrativesSourcesMemoirsJournal
(Source: UIC - Educational History in Chicago: Primary Sources)

The Iroquois Theater Fire of 1903

On a chilly Chicago winter day—December 30, 1903 —the ornate, five-week-old Iroquois Theater was filled with teachers, mothers and children enjoying their holiday break. The eager crowd of more than 1700 patrons could not have suspected that almost one-third of them would perish that afternoon in “a calamity which…bereft hundreds of homes of their loved ones and made Chicago the most unhappy city on the face of the earth,” as The Great Chicago Theater Disaster would later recount.
The tragedy would be a wake-up call to the city—and the nation—and lead to reforms in the way public spaces took responsibility for the safety of their patrons. A spark from a stage light ignited nearby drapery. Attempts to stamp out the fire with a primitive retardant did nothing to halt its spread across the flammable decorative backdrops. Days later, the Chicago Tribune ran a list of regulations that had been flouted by the Iroquois, including the lack of an adequate fire alarm, automatic sprinklers, marked exits, or suitable fire extinguishing devices. Even the two large flues on the rooftop where the smoke and flame could have vented out were boarded shut. The newspaper called for action, prompting nationwide fire safety upgrades to public buildings.
Newberry School benefited from a vast number of interior upgrades to their floors, hallways, windows and doors in 1904.
(Source: The Iroquois Theater Disaster Killed Hundreds and Changed Fire Safety Forever ,Smithsonian Magazine, June 2018)
A Board of Education note of building upgrades set for the 1903-1904 modernizing of the building as a result of sweeping reforms following the theater disaster. (Source: Newberry Academy archives)
Centennial Letter 1.pdf
Letter between Principal Griffin and a former student from 1885 as the community gathered information in preparation for the school's 100th anniversary.
Centennial 2.pdf
Excerpts from the 100th anniversary booklet, including letters to the community from Principal Griffin and former Principal Alma Jones

1958: Centennial Celebration

By the time the centennial celebrations were taking place, ground had already been broken on the addition to Newberry, which runs along Orchard Street. The project proposal from the 1956 plan cites the need to reduce overcrowding in neighboring schools.
Albert R. Sabin
Corydon G. Stowell
Mary E. L. Fellows
Alma Jones
Russell Griffin
Dr. Mary Ransford

Transition to a Magnet School

From 1961 - 1989, Dr. Mary Ransford served as Newberry's Principal and taught at the school prior to taking on the new role as it's leader. During her tenure, she oversaw the transition from neighborhood to a math & science magnet in 1981 as part of the court-ordered desegregation ordinance in Chicago.
In 1980, the Chicago Board of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice entered into a desegregation consent decree which, among other things, required CPS to implement a voluntary desegregation plan designed to create and maintain as many racially integrated schools as possible. CPS utilized a variety of methods, including magnet schools, as a means to achieve this goal.
(Source: CPS Magnet & Consent Decree webpage) .
Clifton Burgess
Renaud J. Beaudoin
Linda S. Foley

Mementos the Class of 1956

Certificates, photos and other memorabilia were made possible through a donation of primary source items from Don Kamps, a Newberry alumni from the class of 1956. He donated his school-based records to Principal Renaud J. Beaudoin in 2006, as the school began preparations for the 100th anniversary.

2008: Newberry's 150th Anniversary

(Left) Principal Renaud J. Beaudoin with the entire staff on the front steps of the school.(Top right) Principal Beaudoin accepting a framed photograph of Walter L. Newberry from his great-great nephew.(Bottom right) Students, staff & families on the playground with flags singing the school song.
(Top left) Chicago 43rd Ward Alderman Vi Daley commemorates the anniversary celebration.(Bottom left) Students gather around the cake as the festivities continue.(Large) The entire student, staff & parent community poses for an arial photograph on the old playground.