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Central Normal College

Danville, Indiana



Only twenty minutes from Indianapolis, Danville had a population of 9,001 in 2010. This is another town I have visited only electronically.  Fortunately, the Danville Public Library and the Hendricks County Historical Society have made the Centralian yearbooks and catalogs from Central Normal School accessible in digital form.



Central Normal College was founded at Ladoga, IN in 1876 by J.W. Darst and W.F. Harper.  It was the second private normal school in Indiana, modeled after the teachings of Alfred Holbrook.  In 1878 the school moved to Danville.  By the end of the century enrollments had topped 1300 students and held above a thousand well into the twentieth century.  The 1919 catalog described the school as operating with “no appropriations from church or state.”  Central ultimately became the last self-supporting private normal school in the Midwest.  That catalog shows that after World War I, C.N.C. was poised to meet the needs of a number of different groups, thus keeping enrollment high.  First, it had a teachers’ professional course, offering certificates at three levels; second, it was a “Commercial Institute” to train those students seeking careers in business; third, it operated as both a standard junior college and four-year college, offering both Associates’ and Bachelors’ degrees; fourth, it offered courses in music, art and vocational training for those wanting only a few courses either for cultural enrichment or personal development.  Finally, it maintained a high school for those students whose local district did not offer one. 


Under a school philosophy that “one of the most important factors in a college education is the general culture that comes from its social life,” C.N.C. offered numerous fraternities and clubs of both professional and social nature.  Included in these were literary societies and maids and bachelors groups.


Enrollment dwindled after World War II, causing Central Normal to cease operations.

Latin students on the steps of the Danville Carnegie Library (1916 Centralian, Indiana Memory Digital Collection <>) accessed 10-10-2017

Bricks and Mortar

With the move to Danville, Central Normal took over the campus of Danville Academy.  The old seminary (built 1829) formed one wing of Recitation Hall, built in 1878.  In 1891 the Administration Building was added.  Science Hall (later named Hargrave Hall) was added in 1916, and a gymnasium was built in 1936.   The 1919 catalog notes that the local Carnegie Library, located just around the corner from the campus, served the college.  In fact, several yearbook photos show groups posing in front of its columns.  


The C.N.C. campus in its entirety passed on to Canterbury College.  The only remaining buildings are Hargrave Hall and the gymnasium.




          Team name: Warriors

          Colors: Purple and Gray (The team name and colors  have been passed on to Danville High School).


The basic sports for Central Normal College were basketball and baseball.  In the 1930’s the basketball team was very successful, going undefeated and winning the Indiana Intercollegiate Conference in 1936.  With a 16-0 record, C.N.C. entered the Olympic Trials.  After beating Cincinnati 36-26 at Indianapolis, they traveled to Chicago where they defeated Ball State 46-23 and Northwestern 29-26 before falling to DePaul 41-36. 


The 1916 Centralian notes that the female students had become active in sports and had developed two school teams that competed against each other.  The yearbook foresaw a time when there would be a Women’s Athletic Association with regular school teams competing against other schools.












After playing football sporadically in the early years, C.N.C. began fielding teams regularly in 1923.  In the years 1925-27, C.N.C. teams went 18-3-1, but overall they lacked the numbers to compete successfully.  Four teams were winless.  Through 1945—the last year C.N.C. was in existence—the most frequent opponents were Ball State, Oakland City, Earlham, Valparaiso, Evansville, St. Joseph’s, Manchester and Eastern Illinois.

The 1915-16 C.N.C. women’s basketball team(1916 Centralian, Indiana Memory Digital Collection <>)  accessed 10-10-2017

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden. 

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