Sycamore Waterman Hall for Girls

Waterman Hall for Girls
A picture containing outdoor, old, black, white

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Courtesy of Phyllis Kelley

                        The History of Sycamore Waterman Hall for Girls

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.

Waterman Hall for Girls was opened in 1888 by Mrs. J.S. (Abbie) Waterman, who endowed part of her homestead for the school thru her will. The original Waterman home (see below) was converted into a rectory for the Episcopal rector in charge of the school, and three other buildings were also built nearby, including the main building above, Tower Hall.

The school attracted girls primarily from affluent families, some of which came from Chicago as well as the remainder of Illinois, and others travelled from other states like South Dakota and Montana to attend. Waterman Hall was a preparatory school for some Eastern colleges, including the prestigious Wellesley College, in addition to some Western universities.

Sadly, Waterman Hall closed its doors in the spring of 1918 due to financial difficulties and the resignation of its rector, Rev. B.F. Fleetwood, D.D., who had served the school in that capacity for 29 years. The school was reopened a year later in the fall of 1919 when St. Alban’s Academy for Boys moved from Knoxville to Sycamore, but later ceased as a center of education when that school closed in 1938. It was also a National Youth Administration center for young men to learn a trade during World War II, and served as a Episcopal retreat center called the Bishop McLaren Center into the 1960’s before the buildings were torn down in 1967 to make way for apartments.

Original Waterman Homestead
A black and white photo of a house with a large front yard

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Courtesy of Phyllis Kelley


Year opened:             1888

Year closed:              1918


It is possible that students enjoyed social activities such as parties, clubs, and some intramural sports while attending the school. Unfortunately, we are in need of help in finding out more about what the girls of Waterman Hall did in their free time. Those that may have information are invited to contact us at the addresses below.


According to information that was received from Phyllis Kelley at the Joiner History Room in Sycamore, it was a tradition of each graduating class to have the speech of its valedictorian put into a small box that would be sealed into the walls of one of the school buildings, beneath a window sill. When the school was torn down, it may have given cause to the wrecking crew to be perplexed when these small cornerstone-type boxes were showing up in the rubble of the demolished building, given what was in them!


to Phyliis Kelly at the Joiner History Room in Sycamore for the information and photos she provided to us in helping present this page to you.


information about Waterman Hall for Girls in Sycamore, please contact us. Our addresses are or send your information to us at;

Illinois High School Glory Days

6439 North Neva

Chicago, IL  60631

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