Children's Village--Illinois Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's School

Children's Village--Illinois Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's School, Normal, Illinois

Photograph by Susan Benjamin and  Robert Broad, courtesy of the Illinois SHPO

Quick Facts
Children's Village--Illinois Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's School is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Children’s Village is approximately 7.88 acres and is located in Normal, Illinois, on the grounds of the former Illinois Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s School (ISSCS). Begun in 1930 and completed in 1931, Children’s Village is a collection of eight identical Tudor Revival cottages and four matching play houses symmetrically arranged around a central promenade. The site is formally arranged, featuring broad grass lawns that served as playgrounds. The arrangement of the cottages allowed for exposure at all sides, providing light and fresh air into the cottages. The complex was designed by Illinois State Architect C. Herrick Hammond, who was also a partner in the Chicago firm of Perkins, Chatten, and Hammond. The district includes eight cottages, landscape features such as the central promenade with sidewalks that have hopscotch courts, and four play house structures. 

This small village of buildings is significant as an excellent example of a cluster of Tudor Revival cottages designed and arranged specifically to accommodate young children in an institutional setting. It is an excellent example of the cottage plan for institutional housing and is special because the complex is not at all forbidding, but was designed to delight young children. This is the only example of such a complex in Bloomington-Normal. The identical cottages in the Children's Village, with play and living areas, were originally designed to respond to the needs of 3- to 8-year-old children who were orphaned or children whose parents couldn't afford their care. The picturesque Tudor Revival cottage architecture of the Children's Village expresses a playfulness that was inviting and comforting and provided a homelike setting for children from all over Illinois.

Children's Village was the third enclave of residential buildings designed on the site of the Illinois Soldiers' Orphans' Home, which was founded just after the Civil War to function as a refuge for military orphans. The home offered them a chance for a better life. It retained that name until 1931, when the Illinois Soldiers' Orphans' Home was renamed the Illinois Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's School (ISSCS). That remained its name until the institution closed in 1979.

The Children's Village was described as "an architectural Alice in Wonderland." The story noted that the cottages seem to come right out of the pages of Hans Christian Anderson Fairy Tales. It stated that these eight cottages of Norman-English architecture were designed to provide "a maximum of comfort" to the young children living there. "Their doors open onto four playgrounds in such a manner that the boys and girls may play together if they wish. Play houses with weathervanes symbolizing Mother Goose and kindred folk people are features of the ample yard."

Last updated: September 6, 2019