The search for the names of the Normal Hall dome

The restoration of the dome in Normal Hall is a key element and required significant research to determine various aspects of the dome’s design.




THE RESTORATION OF THE DOME IN Normal Hall is a key element of the renovation project. To complete the restoration, significant research was necessary to determine various aspects of the dome’s design.

The design of the original dome in the State Normal Library is described in the program used for its dedication with a similar description recited by Bess Cunningham in a speech many decades later. While Indiana State University’s records include the original plans for the building, those plans only reflect the structural aspects of the dome, not the design of the art glass it contained.

Fortunately, several panels from the original dome were preserved, thanks to the efforts of two now-retired professors, Larry Beymer and Herb Rissler. They rescued six panels from the attic of Normal Hall and convinced then-President Richard G. Landini of the need to preserve them. Those panels still hang in Cunningham Memorial Library. In addition to the panels, the university’s archives had one out-of- focus black and white partial image of the dome that showed the overall design elements. No other photos of the intact dome could be found. The remaining glass remnants recovered from the Normal Hall attic also helped the Conrad Schmitt Studio recreate the design for the dome.

Indiana State President Dan Bradley stands next to a rendering of the Normal Hall dome.

Indiana State President Dan Bradley stands next to a rendering of the Normal Hall dome.

What the photograph and descriptions didn’t contain were the names of the 24 noted philosophers and educators, including six Indiana educators, which are featured on the dome’s panels. The six panels in the library were a start and included the names of Spencer, Mann, Morrison, Socrates, Rousseau and Harris. The dedication program mentioned that President William Parsons’ name was used after his protest against it being included was overruled at the request of the faculty and hundreds of students. A partial panel showing the name of Pestalozzi was found on a table in Normal Hall. Previous attempts to identify the names had also produced those of Plato and Mills (Caleb Mills).

A search began for the remaining 14 names. A review of the Board of Trustees’ minutes from 1907 to 1909, many of which were handwritten, revealed the board had received numerous bids and designs for the dome ranging in costs from $500 to $2,175. They selected Louis J. Millet from Chicago, stating that his design was the ”simplest and best suited to the building.” While the initial bid was $1,190, a contract was later approved at a cost of $1,540.

Securing Millet as the dome’s designer was a significant coup. Millet studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris with his lifelong friend and frequent collaborator, Louis Sullivan. Along with his partner, George Healy, Millet became nationally known for his work in decorative painting and designing and manufacturing art glass. A contemporary and friend of Frank Lloyd Wright, Millet taught at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1886 until 1918 and directed its department of decorative design. During his tenure at the Art Institute, Millet served as the first dean of the Chicago School of Architecture, a joint program of the Art Institute and the Armour Institute of Technology, now the Illinois Institute of Technology.

In further attempts to secure Millet’s design, the university contacted Ball State University’s library of historical architectural records, the Indiana State Library, the Art Institute and the Illinois Institute of Technology to no avail. The Art Institute referred the university to a scholar from Illinois who has studied Millet extensively. That scholar confirmed Millet’s records were lost in a flooded basement a few years following his death.

Finally, Vigo County historian Mike McCormick heard about the search and provided the university with a 1909 article from the Saturday Spectator, which included a list of the names featured on the dome. However, the list only had 22 of the 24 names, and some were misspelled, including Aristotle appearing as Aristolle and Alcuin listed as Alciun. The other names confirmed by this article that were not previously known were Froebel, Herbart, Kant, Mann, Bernard, Owen, Hoshour, Hobbs, Confucius, Quintillian and Plutarch.

Around the same time Indiana State staff received the article, a crate of stained-glass sections from the dome was discovered in storage. When uncrated, the remnants included the name of Owen along with the C for Confucius.

Research continued in hopes of finding the remaining two names and to define the individuals represented by these last names. Many, including the ancient and 18th century philosophers, were obvious. Others were readily apparent because of their roles in developing educational methods. Among the Americans, some were well-known national proponents of public education, such as Horace Mann. Others took a bit more research. Harris turned out to be William Torrey Harris, who served as the U.S. Commissioner of Education from 1886 to 1906 and established the first public kindergarten in the United States. Bernard was originally thought to be Bernard of Chartres, a 12th-century French philosopher who was widely considered to be the father of the university concept. Additional research led to the belief that Bernard was also misspelled in the 1909 article and was actually Barnard for Henry Barnard, who was the first U.S. Commissioner of Education, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin and a staunch supporter of teacher training and normal schools.

Normal Hall is seen under construction in February 2015.

Normal Hall is seen under construction in February 2015.

In the Indiana quadrant, the names of Parsons and Mills were easy identified. Owen is clearly one of the members of the New Harmony family but could refer to Robert Owen, the founder of this “perfect society” or his son, Richard Owen, who served as state geologist, a professor at Indiana University and the first president of Purdue. Hoshour was Samuel Hoshour, the first president of Northwestern Christian University (now Butler University) and Indiana’s state superintendent of public instruction. Hobbs turned out to be Barnabus Coffin Hobbs, who served as the superintendent of public instruction when the Indiana State Normal School opened and was a trustee for 20 years. He was also the first president of Earlham College and was influential in the founding of Rose Polytechnic School, now Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. The last name in the Indiana quadrant took a little more digging. It is believed Morrison stood for John Irwin Morrison, a well-respected Indiana school teacher who later served as state representative, state senator and state treasurer. He chaired the Committee on Education at the 1851 Indiana Constitutional Convention, which created the office of state superintendent of public instruction.

The search for the last two names remained fruitless. A long list of potential and appropriate names was developed, but no documents containing the dome’s original names and their reason for inclusion has been uncovered. Many individuals including John Amos Comenius, known as the father of modern education, Francis Bacon, Wilhelm Humboldt and others were considered. In the end, the university chose two educators of national significance who represented core values important to the university to fill the two remaining spots. To pay tribute to the university’s 150-year history of educating a diverse student body and its heritage of providing opportunities to women, renowned African-American educator Booker T. Washington and Emma Willard, an American advocate for public education for women, were selected.

That decision gave the Conrad Schmitt team the names it needed to complete the dome. The dome also features four inscriptions, which fortunately were detailed in the dedication program. The earliest inscription, “Education shall be forever encouraged,” was drawn from the Ordinance of 1787, also known as the Northwest Ordinance. “Knowledge and learning generally diffused through a community, essential to the preservation of a free government” came from the first constitution of the state of Indiana in 1816. The Constitution of 1851 yielded the third inscription, “A general and uniform system of common schools.” The final phrase is pulled from the legislative act of 1865 that established the Indiana State Normal School for the “Preparation of teachers.”

The university is planning to document this information and have it preserved in the university archives.



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