Cunningham Memorial Library Digital Exhibits

Special Collections Digital Exhibits

Digital Exhibits from the Special Collections Department of Indiana State University

Indiana State Normal School original building


Indiana State Normal School original building




Vrydagh & Son, Terre Haute


Miles and Hedden

Cornerstone Ceremony:

August 13, 1867




Destroyed by fire, April 9, 1888


The Indiana State Legislature, with the persuasion of Dr. E. T. Spottswood and Judge Baskin E Rhoads, created the Indiana State Normal School (I.S.N.S.), on December 20, 1865. State funds amounting to fifty-thousand dollars, were appropriated to establish the school in the city which would offer the greatest advantages and which would donate no less than fifty-thousand dollars toward the Normal School's establishment. The Board of the Normal School was authorized to advertise throughout the Sate of Indiana for donations of land, money, and buildings as a site for the new school. Terre Haute was the only community in the state to make such an offer of money and land.

An architect was hired and building plans drawn up.  The corner stone was laid August 13, 1867.  Numerous articles from the school and the city of Terre Haute were placed in the cornerstone.

The State Normal School was constructed on donated ground, which is now the present day site of the Quadrangle. On January 6, 1870 the partially constructed and poorly equipped Indiana State Normal School building was opened to students. On this day, President William Jones greeted 23 students and a faculty comprised of three assistants. Later in the year that student body increased to 40 and three additional faculty were hired.

On April 8, 1888 the eighteen year old Indiana State Normal School building was completed destroyed by fire. The event was described as "the most unfortunate single catastrophe that could happen to Terre Haute."

The only equipment saved from the calamity was three pieces of physics apparatus, thirteen microscopes , a handful of library books, and a record of Board meeting minutes from 1866 which Miss Helen Gilbert, President Parsons' secretary, had carried out.

Thanks to the resolve of President William Wood Parsons, students of the school missed only one day of classes. The City of Terre Haute rallied to support the school by providing temporary quarters in the community and appropriating money for the immediate rebuilding of the school. Instruction resumed in a new Normal School building built on the same site in the fall of 1888. In addition to this catastrophe, the Normal School weathered several crises and controversies during these formative years; facing such challenges as the resignation of one-half the faculty in a dispute with the Board of trustees in1881, and the cancellation of the 1893 Commencement as the result of a student led protest by the Senior Class. 


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“Indiana State Normal School original building,” Cunningham Memorial Library Digital Exhibits, accessed November 28, 2023,

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