The Ward Family and DePaul University in Lincoln Park
The decades preceding and following 1917–the year the United States entered World War I–saw DePaul University lay the foundations for its growth into a modern university. This exhibit explores pieces of that story, including the war’s impact on the community, the enduring ties that bound the school to its Vincentian heritage, and one faithful Lincoln Park family.
The young Ward family is pictured here about 1899, shortly after the birth of daughter Marguerite. Parents Albert J. and Marguerite were first-generation Americans of Irish and Swiss heritage. Marguerite died in 1913, leaving behind her children Harold, Eugene, William, Cyril, Ferdinand, Albert F., Robert, Oliver, and Marguerite G.
Founded in 1898, St. Vincent’s College was re-chartered as DePaul University in 1907. This reorganization accompanied a building program anchored around St. Vincent’s Church. Expansions included rebuilding the College Building, located next to St. Vincent’s Church, and constructing the Lyceum and the College Theater, located across Sheffield Avenue, where the Ray Meyer Fitness Center stands today.
The Ward family lived and worked in Lincoln Park at the time of St. Vincent’s College’s 1898 founding. According to the 1900 U.S. Census, Albert J. and Marguerite Ward raised their eight sons and one daughter at 1210 Fullerton Ave., just four blocks west of the DePaul campus. The devoutly Catholic family would form a lasting relationship with both DePaul and St. Vincent’s Parish.
In the first decades of the 1900s, the Ward family’s domestic, scholastic, social, and professional lives revolved around the Fullerton Avenue corridor. The map detail at right shows the proximity of the Ward’s stone business and family homes to the DePaul University campus. Home to many first- and second-generation Polish, German, and Irish immigrants, Lincoln Park offered a localized network of shops, churches, and schools, with industrial activity along the Chicago River and L train service to the Loop beginning in 1900.
St. Vincent’s Church remained the hub of the Lincoln Park Campus after DePaul University’s 1907 re-chartering. A large field behind the church served as the school’s athletic grounds, hosting baseball, football, and a variety of other athletic events until the 1950s. Today, DePaul’s Lincoln Park Student Center stands in its place.
DePaul and St. Vincent’s Church rooted many in the Lincoln Park community to the Congregation of the Mission, or “Vincentians.” Founded by Vincent de Paul in the 17th century, the religious order’s American members had established the parish and college that bear his name here in Chicago. William and Ferdinand “Joe” Ward both entered the Vincentian seminary in Perryville, Missouri, around 1915, and were ordained as priests in 1918 and 1920, respectively.
Family patriarch Albert J. Ward was a partner in the Edwards & Ward Stone and Granite Works, located by the bridge just west of Fullerton and Clybourn avenues. Edwards & Ward supplied stone for the 1905 reconstruction of the St. Vincent’s College Building, as well as for construction of the Lyceum and College Theater, completed 1907. By 1918, Albert J. Ward was sole proprietor of the company.
Edwards & Ward supplied cut stone in 1905 to rebuild the College Building, now Byrne Hall, adjacent to St. Vincent’s Church. From 1906-1907, they supplied stone used to build the Lyceum and College Theater across from the church. Oldest brothers Harold and Eugene, 15 and 14 in 1905, might have been old enough to help complete these campus projects.
The Federal style Lyceum, located at 2235 N. Sheffield Ave., was a mixed-use building. It held university classrooms, the school library, student meeting spaces, and the College Grill to serve patrons of the College Theater next door. It was also briefly the home of the DePaul High School for Girls from 1910-1911, until the School of Music took over the second floor space in 1912.
As part of DePaul’s 1907 re-chartering and facilities expansion program, the College Theater was erected across from St. Vincent’s Church, next to the Lyceum. The Grecian style building had a distinctive tiled roof, lending it the nickname “The Barn.”
The College Theater became a centerpiece of Lincoln Park in the 1910s, hosting plays and early film screenings in addition to DePaul events. Stage performances attracted audiences from across the city, adding to the university’s prestige as the administration worked to increase enrollment. The theater was eventually converted to an auditorium and gymnasium that hosted dances, basketball games, and ROTC drills in later decades.
The Ward boys worked at the family stone yard in addition to studying at DePaul Academy and DePaul University. Eugene Ward married young and became a draftsman for the business, while university records suggest the youngest sibling, Marguerite, was employed as a stenographer and assistant to DePaul’s College of Commerce dean in the mid-1910s.