New Trier: 122 years of growth

New Trier celebrates its birthday on Feb 4. we reflect on how far we’ve come



The Roman gate frequently known as ‘Porta Nigra’

With New Trier’s 122nd birthday coming up on Feb. 4 you would think the building would be breaking and slowly decomposing. Not New Trier! The school has renovated several times since opening its door including a complete tear down in the 1950’s.  

The school originally opened in 1901 with a first student body of 76 students accompanied by 7 teachers. The day the first opened there was a huge snow storm and people struggled to get to the campus which ironically set the precedent of the school rarely closing for snow days. 

In the 1890s it became apparent to the people of New Trier Township how impractical their access to education was.

According to The New Trier Century: Opportunity, Excellence and Tradition, Elizabeth E. Packer, dean of girls, said

“the rapid growth of the villages of the North Shore during the decade 1889-1899 made the question of adequate school facilities a pressing one, especially the matter of accommodating the increasing number of high school pupils.” 

With these problems, New Trier township board decided to devote $60,000 of taxpayer money towards buying the land the school stands on today and constructing a tower building as the first school on the property. The total cost of the construction ended up being close to $100,000. 

The first addition to the building was in 1906, known at the time as the east wing. This altered the types of school lunches that were served because of the new cafeteria that was installed with ovens. Students no longer had to bring their lunches from home but could purchase a hot 


The school has been around during major historic events from the 1900s to the 2000s. Students experienced World Wars I & II, Women’s and the Civil Rights Movements along with the passing of Title IX..

The decade leading up to World War I was quiet. In 1914, the war started and the quiet years turned upside down. Once people were being sent off to fight in the war, New Trier students were getting involved. Students held fundraisers while others were deployed to battle. Though they were never forgotten by the community. 

“Those who went overseas were not forgotten as teachers sent them yearbooks. Students remaining at home made contributions including fund-raising for an ambulance to be used abroad.” according to The New Trier Century: Opportunity, Excellence and Tradition book

In 1922 just 4 years after the war ended, the new adviser system was implemented. Advisers were in charge of the students well-being and growth within the school along with making at home visits to the student’s homes.

The advisery system has had minor changes since then. The fundamental idea that a group of students will have the same adviser for almost every year of high school is still in practice today. 

In 1928 the school completed the building of Leslie Gates gym. The total cost of that build was around $675,000 which is equivalent to $11 million today. 

Fortunately, with all our school has gone through, it is not decomposing yet! The building continues to grow and expand. Happy 122nd Birthday New Trier!