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History and Heritage

North Park University’s roots can be traced back to a church basement in Minneapolis in 1891, where classes in music, religion, language, and business gave Swedish immigrants the education and skills they would need to prosper in America. With an offer of land in Chicago, the school moved to the North Park neighborhood just north of the city limits, which at that time ended at Irving Park Road.

In the fall of 1894, Old Main, the first building on campus, was completed. The Georgian Revival structure housed all departments of the school — classrooms, faculty offices, and sleeping quarters, as well as the library, gymnasium, and dining room. In the 1920s, pilots used the cupola atop Old Main as a landmark to find Orchard Field (now O'Hare International Airport). The cupola was the tallest point on the city's north side.

Throughout the 20th century, North Park University has expanded and adapted its educational mission to the changing times. At various points in its history it was an academy, junior college, and four-year liberal arts college, finally becoming a university with a theological seminary by 1997.

In recent years, much time and many resources have been invested in renovating campus facilities, including the 2001 construction of the Brandel Library; the 2003 renovation of the interior campus greenspace; the 2004 construction of the Holmgren Athletic Complex for football, softball, and baseball; and the 2006 addition of the Helwig Recreation Center. A renovation of Burgh Residence Hall was also completed in 2008, the same year in which North Park was awarded the prestigious Excellence in Landscape Architecture Award from the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) and the American Institute for Architects (AIA).

Next Steps

Look back at the first 40 years of North Park.

Explore Campaign North Park, the new campaign which includes plans for a new, state-of-the-art Science and Community Life Building.