Named Jubilee College by its founder, the first Episcopal Bishop of Illinois Philander Chase (1775-1852), in 1839, in expression of his thankfulness and joy, the college was one of the earliest educational enterprises in Illinois. At one time, Jubilee College occupied a dozen or more structures on a 3,500-acre tract. The school included a theological seminary, a college, a classical preparatory school for boys, and a “seminary” for girls, as well as small farming operations. The site’s centerpiece is an L-shaped building, the design of which was adapted from an Anglican chapel near London, England. Constructed between 1839 and 1844, the two-story native sandstone building housed the school’s chapel, classrooms, and dormitory space. Through a series of misfortunes climaxed by the Bishop’s death, the college closed in 1862.
In 1933 a remnant of the college and grounds, consisting of 93 acres, was presented to the state of Illinois. Since that time the Department of Natural Resources increased the acreage to 3,200. The college building, placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, has been restored to its original appearance and is under the management of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. The “restored” building’s chapel wing contains representations of an 1840s Episcopal chapel, a first-story chapel extension that served during the week as classroom space, and a second-floor dormitory room. The recreated schoolmaster’s office and library are located in the larger west wing, which also contains a video theatre and museum exhibits. Jubilee Cemetery, which adjoins the site, is private property. At one time, people could tour the 1839 college, seminary prep school with chapel, dorms, library, head school master, study and exhibits and video presentation. Unfortunately, Jubilee College State Historic Site is closed to the public due to short staffing. For more information, call 309/243-9489 or 309/243-7492