January 7, 2013
Artifact: Postcard of Concordia College [Theological Seminary], Springfield, Illinois
Significance: On 4 January 1874 the pro-seminary or academy section of the Missouri Synod’s “practical” seminary was transferred from Saint Louis to newly acquired property in Springfield, Illinois. The seminary program itself, focusing on functional rather than scholarly theology, was transferred on 1 September 1875. The postcard depicts a new classroom and dormitory building constructed in 1891.
The Evolution of a Campus: Prior to 1861, the “practical” seminary had been located in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It was moved during the Civil War, however, and combined with the “theoretical” seminary in Saint Louis. Simultaneously, the Gymnasium in Saint Louis was transferred to the Fort Wayne campus. The two seminaries remained combined throughout the Civil War and most of the Reconstruction Era, but overcrowding in the 1870s caused a need to separate the two programs.
A property in Springfield, Illinois, became available in 1873. It had been the campus of Illinois State University, which was not a state institution as the name implies but rather a college founded by Lutherans in the Illinois Synod, a part of the General Synod. The university, which interestingly had ties to Abraham Lincoln,1 closed its doors in 1869 following theological controversies within the university and the synod. The campus was used as an orphanage until it was offered to the Missouri Synod. The seminary remained on that campus until 1976 when it returned to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to the campus of the closed Concordia Senior College.
For more information about the seminary in Springfield, see Prairie School of the Prophets: The Anatomy of a Seminary 1846–1976 by Erich H. Heintzen (CPH, 1989).