This is a revision to this post. I had previously listed the athletic field in the incorrect location. Thanks to Tom Longden for pointing out this error.
The athletic field was located at East Douglas and Cambridge NOT East Douglas and Cornell.
The athletic field was expanded in 1923, much to the grumbling of neighbors. DMU acquired an extra 25 feet to expand the field at a cost of $10,000. A concrete bleacher/grandstand with capacity of seating 5,000 people would be built before the first football game in September. Many residents felt the expansion would narrow Cambridge Street too much and make travel down the road during games difficult. DMU went ahead with their expansion anyway.
“The City’s Business.” Des Moines Register. Des Moines, Iowa: 25 August 1923, p. 12. Newspapers.com. Accessed: 06 December 2016.
“Concrete Bleachers Des U. Plan.” The Decatur Herald. Decatur, Illinois: 19 August 1923, p. 22. Newspapers.com. Accessed: 06 December 2016.
“Council Visits Stadium Site.” Des Moines Register. Des Moines, Iowa: 23 August 1923, p. 2. Newspapers.com. Accessed: 06 December 2016.
“Iowa News.” Des Moines Register. Des Moines, Iowa: 23 August 1923, p. 6. Newspapers.com. Accessed: 06 December 2016.
The Tiger. Des Moines: Iowa: Students of Des Moines University, 1927.
President Longwell did not believe in college sports. He thought it took too much time away from a student when they should be focused on their academics. Longwell did believe in what he called ‘physical culture’. This amounted to all students participating in calisthenics before chapel exercises.
By 1901, Longwell had little say in the building of the athletic field, shown above. He’d been ousted during a change of management. By 1902, he returned to take control of the school once more.
Highland Park College, and later, Des University, would keep their football, basketball, baseball and track even through all the owner changes.
In 1927, the gymnasium was built a few blocks west of the athletic field. The gym survived. The athletic field did not. The land at East Douglas & Cornell was razed in 1955 to make way for home development.
Livingston, T. M. “Highland Park College.” Highland Park News and Advertiser, Vol. XXX, No. 10, March 8, 1955, p. 2.
Longwell, O.H. Autobiography., p. 104
The Piper. Annual. 1911.
The Tiger. Annual. 1920.
The first May Day celebration at Highland Park College took place in 1900. It resembled modern day prom in many respects. Faculty was in charge of different aspects of the celebration while the student body elected a king, queen and court members. Additional activities included such things as shooting bow and arrows, tug of war, shot put, disc, running races. The students often carried the celebrations well into the night. In one instance, the students took over the streetcars and didn’t allow anyone else on them well into the night.
President Longwell said of the first event (his daughter Helen was the first May queen so it might account for his gushing praise here): “The royal procession, the crowing of the king and queen and the dancing around the May pole on the green before their royal highnesses was spectacular and beautiful in the extreme (Longwell, pg. 107).”
May Day tradition continued each year until 1918. The following year the college was sold to the Baptists who discontinued this event.
- Longwell, Oliver H., A.M., Ph.D. Autobiography. Introduction by James R. Hanna, A.M., LL.D. Des Moines, Iowa: The Highland Publishing Company, 1919, pp. 106-07.
- “May Day Festival on Campus, Highland Park College.” Miller, James Clarkson. “Great American School, Highland Park College of Des Moines, A.” The Midwestern 1, no. 2. Des Moines, Iowa: Greater Des Moines Publishing Company, 1907, pp. 85-97
- The Piper. Des Moines, Iowa: Students of Highland Park College, 1916.
- The Tiger. Des Moines, Iowa: Students of Des Moines College, 1920.