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Elliott’s Business College

Burlington, Iowa



The 1905-06 catalogue is available through Family Search.  Commercial and Statistical Record of the City of Burlington by J. L. Spalding has a good short sketch of the school.  


Spalding dates the college from 1879.  However, History of Des Moines County notes that Elliott’s Business College was the successor to Burlington Commercial College and Burlington Business College, which had operated from 1856.  At any rate George W. Elliott acquired the college and made a success of it.


History of Education in Iowa notes that from 120 students in 1882, the school grew to 300 the following year, and reached 500 students in the period 1908-1912. Faculty numbered 11 at that time.


Spalding listed the curriculum as “English, Grammar, Reading, Spelling, Penmanship, Practical Arithmetic, Geography, United States History, Algebra, Geometry, Business Arithmetic, Rapid Calculations, Phonography, Type Writing, Book Keeping, Correspondence and Commercial Law.”  Spalding goes on to note that students applied their knowledge under actual business conditions of “buying, selling, depositing, drawing and discounting.” 


The college closed likely during the Great Depression.

Hedge Building today. (Ian Poellet, accessed 1-28-2017


Bricks and Mortar

History of DesMoines County gives the original home of Elliott’s Business College as an upstairs room at the northwest corner of Main and Jefferson.   In 1881 Elliott moves his college to a new building at 401 Jefferson.  Preservation Iowa notes that this building, known as Hedge Building, was designed by architect Charles Dunham to be a showplace for the city.  The three-story structure features a carved limestone façade, eight-foot windows, spires, and decorative brickwork. 


After the college closed, parts of the building were used as a furniture store, as a dress shop, as a men’s clothing store and finally as a Chinese take-out restaurant.  Unoccupied, the upper floors were deteriorating.


In 2008 local businesses purchased the building.  Becky Anderson, a local preservationist, began a massive and meticulous renovation project to restore the building to its showpiece condition.  Anderson’s business office was the first to locate in the renovated ground floor.  Another business and two apartments now occupy spaces in the building.


On the National Register itself, the Hedge Building is also the anchor for the West Jefferson Historic District.


Without a traditional four-year course of study, Elliott’s Business College played football off and on between 1893 and 1911.  The only complete season we have a record for was 1904, when E.B.C. went 8-2 according to the 1905 Spalding’s Official Football Guide.  The Business College had wins over Washington High School 17-6, Mt. Pleasant Athletic Club 20-0, Ottumwa Business College 26-0, New London High School 5-0 and 18-6, Mediapolis Athletic Club 18-2, Keokuk Athletic Club 11-0, and Keosakqua High School 46-0.  The team lost a return game with Mediapolis AC 25-0 and to Keokuk Medical College 28-0.


The Keokuk AC game demonstrates how dangerous football was in 1904.  The St. Paul Globe reported that a Keokuk player was “rendered senseless by a kick in the spine” from which he was “in delirium for two hours.”  Another Keokuk player was kicked in the head, while two Elliott’s players suffered a broken ankle and broken nose.

The 1904 Elliott's Business College football team.  Image from Spalding's Official Football Guide.;view=2up;seq=184

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