Project Description

Hyde Park People, Places, Things September 1, 2010

By the Hyde Park Historical Society
This regular column from the Hyde Park Historical Society features snapshots of the individuals, sights and history of the interesting and diverse community that is Hyde Park. As always, comments and suggestions for future columns are welcome to This article features a venerable institution founded in the nineteenth century and moving into the twenty first.

Chicago Theological Seminary
The Chicago Theological Seminary was incorporated in 1855, making it the oldest institution of higher education continuously in existence in Chicago. The original charter states, “The object shall be to furnish instruction and the means of education to young men preparing for the Gospel Ministry, and the Institution shall be equally open to all denominations of Christians for that purpose.” The Seminary was originally located on Ashland Avenue overlooking Union Park where it steadily grew in size and influence into the twentieth century.

In 1915 the Seminary was under pressure to move, and then President Ozora Davis saw the advantage of affiliating the Seminary with a major university. As a result, the CTS began a formal relationship with the Divinity School of the University of Chicago and moved into shared space on campus. Davis fostered this relationship while maintaining the Seminary’s autonomy and enabled, through endowments and donations, the building of the CTS campus on 58th Street between Woodlawn and University Avenues.

The Seminary’s dedication to social welfare and diversity stems from its earliest days with the appointment of Graham Taylor in 1892 through the founding in 1968 of Operation Breadbasket in McGiffert Hall by Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. Other notable efforts in social welfare include the Chicago Center for Black Religious Studies, the Center for Community Transformation, and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Religious Archives Network. The Seminary recently installed Rabbi Dr. Rachel Mikva as the Rabbi Hermann Schaalman Chair in Jewish Studies, the only such endowment at an established Protestant seminary.

Today the Seminary is affiliated with the United Church of Christ. It offers master’s degrees in divinity and sacred theology, and a doctoral degree in ministry as well as a PhD program in Bible, Culture and Hermeneutics (Jewish and Christian Scriptures) and Theology, Ethics and the Human Sciences.

Notable Individuals
In 1892 the Seminary invited Graham Taylor to become Professor of Christian Sociology. He established the first distinct department of sociology in an American theological school. He worked closely with Jane Addams to establish the Chicago Commons settlement house in 1894. He also founded a graduate school of social work, which later became the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. This organization stemmed directly from classes and programs offered at the Chicago Commons. Among those who taught at the Commons were social reformer Jane Addams, educator John Dewey, and sociologist Charles Henderson.

Ozora Davis was president of the CTS from 1909-1930. He crafted its relationship with the university, and was responsible for the successful fund-raising campaign in the 1920’s for the new campus and endowed chairs.

Other notable individuals have been associated with the CTS. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from CTS in 1957, as did Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 1986.

Hyde Park Campus
The current Hyde Park campus, recently purchased by the University of Chicago for repurposing as the Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics, has a long and interesting history. Herbert Riddle was the architect for the group of buildings that was built between 1923 and 1927 under the presidency of Ozora Davis.
The Thorndike Hilton Chapel is a small, exquisite chapel designed for private meditation and prayer with stained glass windows designed by Willet Studios and patterned after the stained glass in Chartres Cathedral. The chapel is immediately accessible from 58th street.stainGlass
Graham Taylor Hall, on the second floor at the south west corner of the main building, features Willett Studios stained glass windows with one large window illustrating the crucifixion and individual windows for each of the nine Old Testament prophets, and for each of Jesus’ twelve apostles. It also houses the brilliant Reneker Organ, a mechanical-action instrument built by Karl Wilhelm.
The University Avenue Entrance Stair Tower leading to Taylor Hall has extraordinary Willet windows depicting the Tree of Jesse.
The Cloisters is an L-shaped, light-bathed room located off the 58th St. terrace. The corbels are carved to represent symbolically the 1913 Kansas City Statement of Faith. Notable is the bronze statue of the Good Samaritan by Laredo Taft, who was responsible for many of the bronze, stone and marble statues throughout the Seminary.
Lawson Tower is a 165 foot square tower named for Victor Lawson, longtime supporter and, on his death, donor of $3.3 million to the Seminary.
The George Common features 10 leaded windows manufactured by Willet Studios. They represent the 10 virtues and incorporate the names of notable Seminary graduates.

The CTS is building a new campus at 60th and Dorchester, which is expected to be complete in 2012. More information on the Chicago Theological Seminary, including a live webcam of the construction site, is available on its web site at: