The Illinois Institute of Technology is in the process of digitizing all yearbooks of the Institute and its predecessors. Those for Lewis Institute have been completed and are available online.
Lewis Institute was the product of the will of Allen Cleveland Lewis to create educational opportunities for citizens of Chicago. Lewis Institute opened as a four-year high school focusing on technical subjects, and a two-year mechanical engineering program. Later a home economics degree and other engineering degrees were added, and the institute offered evening classes as well as day classes. There was also a cooperative education program which paired students with businesses, allowing them to receive practical training while completing formal education. In 1917 a general Bachelor of Science degree was added, and Lewis Institute emerged from World War I as a four-year college.
Lewis’s will provided for a school for "respectable females." They were to be instructed in the “different branches of art, science, design, etc., which might enable them to gain a livelihood there from.” The 1922 graduation list shows that 16 of 35 B.S. degrees awarded were to females.
The 1922 Lewis yearbook shows 35 students receiving Bachelor of Science degrees—15 in Mechanical Engineering, and 10 each in Arts and Science and Home Economics. An additional 49 students received an Associate of Arts degree, and 23 received an Associate of Home Economics degree
Though Lewis was a commuter school in which most students were pursuing career training, the yearbook shows that the school provided opportunities for students to experience a full campus life. There were no fewer than six “secret societies”—two fraternities and four sororities—to provide a social life. Students could participate in glee club, drama, or public speaking. Many were members of the Philomathean literary society, the Philosophy Club or one of two mathematics-based societies—Pi over Two or X-Cube.
After struggling through the Great Depression, Lewis Institute merged with Armour Institute of Technology in 1940. Today the school is known as Illinois Institute of Technology.
Bricks and Mortar
Lewis Building was constructed in 1895. It was located at the southeast corner of Michigan Street and Robey Avenue, at the intersection of two streetcar lines. Described as a “monumental” building, it occupied a full block on Michigan. The ground floor of the six-floor building was rented to “general business” shops, whose rent helped defray the cost of college. One of the upstairs rooms was a reading room, in which newspapers and books (but no novels) were available for students and the public to read. When the Institute library proved inadequate, the Chicago Public Library acquired four ground-floor rooms to provide more reading material.
When Lewis and Armour merged in 1940, the students moved to the Armour campus. The Lewis Building was used as a civic building by the city until around 1990, when it was razed to make way for the new United Center.
The Lewis Building (Lewis Annual, accessed 1-20-2017
In its early years Lewis sponsored intercollegiate teams in football, basketball, baseball and track and field. In addition, Lewis was a pioneer in women’s basketball. The 1903 team, the first at the school, posted a 2-4 record, despite the lack of an adequate gymnasium. After World War I, Lewis dropped football, but fielded a swimming team. Depression cutbacks reduced all sports to an intramural level.
The high point of Lewis football came during the 1901 and 1902 seasons. The 1901 team won nine of 11 games, losing only to Culver Military Academy and Lake Forest.
1913 basketball team Lewis Annual, accessed 1-20-2017