Sycamore St. Alban’s Academy

St. Alban’s Tower Hall
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Courtesy of Phyllis Kelley

                        The History of Sycamore St. Alban’s Academy

Sycamore (population 14,866) is located in DeKalb County, about 55 miles west of Chicago and 35 miles south of Rockford. It serves as the county seat and can be reached by taking Illinois Routes 23 and 64, located along the south bank of the East Branch of the Kishwaukee River. The community was incorporated as a village in 1858, and then received the same recognition as a city in 1869. The Sycamore and Cortland Railroad once ran thru the town and helped it in its early growth. After a couple of battles, the county courthouse came to Sycamore in 1903.

St. Alban’s Academy was an all-boys’ boarding school affiliated with the Episcopal Church that was founded in 1890 in Knoxville by Rev. Charles Wesley Leffingwell, D.D., but was invited to move to Sycamore in 1919 after Waterman Hall for Girls was closed down the previous year. The school remained as an all-boys’ academy until the spring of 1938 when it was closed due to declining enrollment and lack of finances.

The buildings were later used for the National Youth Administration as a trade school for young men between the ages of 18-24 during World War II, then converted into the Bishop McLaren Center for retreats as administered by the Episcopal Church. The life of the school buildings came to an end in 1967 when a pair of Sycamore businessmen bought the property and tore the buildings down to make way for an apartment complex.

Second of five buildings at St. Alban’s
A black and white photo of a house with trees in the front

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Courtesy of Phyllis Kelley
Third building on St. Alban’s campus
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Courtesy of Phyllis Kelley

Year opened (in Knoxville): 1890

Moved to Sycamore:          1919

Closed for good:                1938

School nickname:              unknown

School colors:                   unknown

School song:                     unknown


We do know that once St. Alban’s was settled in Sycamore, the school offered football and basketball, with the possibility of track as a charter member of Midwest Prep Conference, which consisted of institutions that were also boarding schools. School colors, team nickname, names of coaches and win-loss records are greatly appreciated to help tell the story of St. Alban athletics.


St. Alban’s won three titles in this sport, according to information provided to us by our good friend and historian Robert Pruter. The school was the regular season champion during the 1928-29 school year, then won the post-season tournament that the conference hosted in the winters of 1933 and 1934. A special note of interest is that the last tournament championship was won on its home floor!

1928-29   Midwest Prep Conference Regular Season Champs

1932-33   Midwest Prep Conference Tournament Champs

1933-34   Midwest Prep Conference Tournament Champs


The school also had representation on the gridiron against the other Midwest Prep schools, and its’ high point came in the fall of 1928 as it captured the conference title.

1928   Midwest Prep Conference Champions


Robert St. John — Following World War I when he served in the US Navy, St. John returned to school and graduated from St. Alban’s. He went on to become a journalist who sparred with Al Capone, covered Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first presidential election, and was a foreign correspondent during World War II that reported numerous events from Europe and Japan, including the Japanese surrender to the Allies. Prior to World War I, he was a friend and classmate of Ernest Hemingway when they lived in Oak Park. St. John passed away at the age of 100 in February 2003.


go to Phyllis Kelley at the Joiner History Room in Sycamore for information and photos about the school’s history, and to Robert Pruter for the athletic history on St. Alban’s.


to tell us more about the history of St. Alban’s Academy for boys. It may have had a short history, but there certainly have to be memories from folks that remember the school. Please contact us by emailing us at or send a note thru the mail at

Illinois High School Glory Days

6439 North Neva

Chicago, IL  60631

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