First State Normal School

Corner of Main and Elm, Platteville, WI

Historical Marker commemorating the first normal school in Wisconsin

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FIRST STATE NORMAL SCHOOL

Wisconsin's first college devoted wholly to training teachers, the Platteville Normal School, opened here on October 9, 1866, in Rountree Hall, which since 1853 has housed its predecessor, the Platteville Academy. The Academy (1842~1866) had functioned largely as a private high school, preparing students for college and teaching. When in 1865 the legislature authorized the state to establish "normal" schools for the training of teachers, many cities offered proposals. Platteville Academy's trustees provided Rountree Hall, the community raised money, and Platteville Normal School opened with a 5~member faculty and 60 students. Two years later, General Ulysses S. Grant participated in the dedication of a new wing. Rountree Hall became the home of the Wisconsin Mining Trade School in 1907, and the Normal School moved to an adjacent site. In 1925 normal schools were converted to state teachers colleges and empowered to grant bachelor's degrees. In 1959, the Wisconsin State College~Platteville and the Wisconsin Institute of Technology merged and in 1971 became the University of Wisconsin~Platteville.

ERECTED 1985

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in May 2014

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Wisconsin Normal Schools 

Written by J.R. Manning

The Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862, signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln, created land-grant colleges. Each state was supposed to have at least one land grant college that would teach agriculture and "mechanical arts" (engineering). Qualifying states received 30,000 acres of federal land for each member of Congress the state had as of 1860, provided the state actually had any federally owned land. The land itself, or proceeds from its sale, was to be used to build and fund what became known as normal schools.

The term "normal school" came from the French école normale. The French concept of école normale was to provide normal standards for education. In Illinois, the school was built outside Bloomington and the community took the name "Normal."

When Wisconsin became a state in 1848, the constitution contained verbiage to establish a school fund for K-12 and normal schools. There were no normal schools at that time.

The normal school in Platteville was the first in Wisconsin, established in 1866, with funds from the Normal School Fund. More normal schools were added, they grew into the Wisconsin State College system and in the early 1970s, the State Colleges were merged into the University or Wisconsin system.

Update Log 

  • October 17, 2014: Essay added by J.R. Manning

Sources 

  • J.R. Manning - thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net