Naperville’s North Central College has not always been called North Central nor has it always been in Naperville. The Evangelical Association of America founded Plainfield College in 1861 with the idea of “uniting a liberal arts education with religious teaching”* and offered a coeducational program from the very beginning. By 1864, the school’s name was changed from Plainfield to North-Western College in the hopes of attracting a more regional student body.
After weathering the Civil War, the college’s administration considered further plans for growth. The college was located right downtown, near modern-day Route 59, but Plainfield was not then reachable by railroad and the administrators concluded they would do better in a railroad town.
After much research into various nearby towns and several deal-making discussions, North-Western College decided on Naperville which offered both land and money towards a new building. The cornerstone for Old Main was laid on May 17, 1870, and with extensive work, was completed in time for dedication by October 4 and the fall semester.
Cornerstone Day was especially celebratory in May of 1920 when the school celebrated the 50th anniversary of its move to Naperville. A few years later in 1926, the college’s name was changed once more, this time to “North Central” in order to avoid confusion with some college located in Evanston.
NCC continues to flourish, adding new buildings to the campus and new educational opportunities to the curriculum. For years, the college welcomed the entire community to a Cornerstone Day picnic in May, but the event was replaced with an awards reception in 2019 and then retired entirely. Even though no celebration was planned for 2020 and COVID-19 would have cancelled it anyhow, this year is a particularly special anniversary, so Happy 150th Cornerstone Day Anniversary, North Central College!*A Time for Remembrance: History of 125 years of First Evangelical United Brethren Church, Naperville, Illinois