Bygone DePaul: Byrne Hall

Bygone DePaul is a series highlighting DePaul’s campus and how it has changed through the years.

Byrne Hall, 1907
Byrne Hall, 1907.

In 1906, the original St. Vincent’s College building, located at Webster and Osgood (now Kenmore) Ave, was razed to make way for bigger and better facilities. President Rev. Peter V. Byrne saw that the University was expanding rapidly after its establishment in 1898 (over 200 students were enrolled at that time), and he wanted to ensure sufficient classroom space was available. In addition to St. Vincent’s College, the DePaul Academy (also founded in 1898, as a preparatory school for St. Vincent’s College) and the DePaul High School for Girls were also growing and were quartered in the same buildings. Byrne began three ambitious building projects; the Lyceum, the College Theater, and the Administration-College Building.

The Administration-College building was built in two phases. The Administration part was erected in 1905 directly next to the soon-to-be-razed St. Vincent’s College. While that building was razed and the Lyceum and College Theater were still being built, classes were held in the Administration building. The construction of the new College building took longer than first planned; the original architects, Murphy and Camp, were unaware of Chicago building codes regarding the use of wooden supports in buildings (created after the Great Fire), and the building could not get approval from the city. President Byrne hired a new architect, J. E. O. Pridmore, who also made the plans for the College Theater and Lyceum. Steel supports were added, as well as a dome on the top to allow for an observatory and telescope. The building was six stories and contained lecture halls, study rooms, laboratories, museums and a large gymnasium on the top floor.

Byrne Hall, 1924
Byrne Hall, 1924.

The College building was used by DePaul for classes until 1924. At this point, DePaul Academy, which had also been located in the College building, grew large enough to need the entire edifice. The DePaul High School for Girls had also been located in the College building but closed in 1922. The College building shortly became known as the Academy building. In 1950, the Academy and the University discussed the formal separation of the two, because faculty members no longer taught at both institutions and there was no common use of facilities. The separation occurred in 1960. DePaul Academy continued to hold classes until 1968, when the financial burdens caused by the separation grew to be too much and the Academy closed after 70 years of instruction. The Academy building was turned over to DePaul University, and renamed Byrne Hall.
Contact DePaul’s University Archives for more information.

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