Built for the Wesleyan Methodist's Illinois Institute in 1853, Blanchard Hall in Wheaton, Illinois served as the main college building for all activities and instruction, and served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Founded by Underground Railroad activist, the Institute was first led by well-known abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor, Rev. John Cross. After years of financial struggle the Wesleyans brought fellow abolitionist Rev. Jonathan Blanchard to take leadership of the struggling institution. Blanchard was one of Theodore Dwight Weld's Seventy and a conductor on the Underground Railroad in Cincinnati and Western Illinois. According to a memoir by Ezra Cook in Charles Clark's History of the Thirty-Ninth Regiment Illinois Volunteer Veteran Infantry (published under the auspices of the Veteran Association of the Regiment in 1889), "…runaway slaves were perfectly safe in the College building, even when no attempt was made to conceal their presence….With hundreds of others, I have seen and talked with such fugitives in the college chapel. Of course they soon took a night train well-guarded to the next station on the U. G. R. R." (p. 490). Cook provides the first "hard" evidence to support the claims of Underground Railroad activity occurring on campus. In 1859, Blanchard renamed the school Wheaton College, which is still in existence, to honor benefactor and Illinois Institute trustee Warren L. Wheaton.
Blanchard Hall is a symbol of Wheaton's unique pioneering role in abolitionism, its matriculation of women on an equal basis, and its matriculation of students of color, including the graduation of the Illinois' first African-American college graduate.
In 1979 Blanchard Hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Visitor Information: Currently open to public.
Location: 501 College Avenue, Wheaton, DuPage, 60187
National Park Unit: No
Ownership: The Trustees of Wheaton College
Location Type: Site
UGRR Operatives: Rev. John Cross,Rev. Jonathan Blanchard