The Illinois Industrial School for Girls was originally founded as a haven for Civil War orphans. It moved to Park Ridge in 1908, changed its focus and became a home, with classrooms facilities, for emotionally disturbed adolescent girls. The school first operated in Evanston for 32 years and focused on “family life”, education, and training in domestic skills “so that the girls could become independent and productive members of their community.”
The school was founded in Evanston in 1877, moved to Park Ridge in 1908, and changed its name to the “Park Ridge School for Girls” in 1913. Originally founded as a home/training school for indigent orphans, it became a destination for girls from the Chicago courts in the late 19th century (a sort of juvenile detention center). Girls were sent here to learn cooking, cleaning, and sewing so that they would be economically self-sufficient upon release. The school was instrumental in the passage of a law by the state legislature in 1881 which asserted that “for each child committed to industrial schools, the county would pay $10.00 monthly plus a certain amounf of clothing.” By 1883, the school’s population had increased to 78, and larger quarters were needed. The forty acre site in Park Ridge was purchased and rented out until 1908, while the building at Sheridan and Main (Old Soldier’s Home) was sold in 1905 with the children placed in temporary homes and insitutions in the interim. By 1913, the school was no longer a state institution and thus had to change their name. By the 1930s, the domestic science curriculum had been replaced by bookkeeping and secretarial courses. During that decade, the school became a fully accredited educational facility.
The school established a state welfare agency for girls in Evanston and was instrumental in the passage of the 1881 law mandating state responsibility (housing/education) for indigent girls. The first charitable baseball game to benefit a philanthropic organization (played in 1908, in the Old Comisky Park) was played on behalf of the Illinois Industrial School for Girls.