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The Jubilee College State Park is a state park in Peoria, Illinois, that rests on the campus of the short-lived Jubilee College. Founded by bishop Philander Chase in 1839, Jubilee College was one of the first attempts at forming a system of higher education in Illinois, but it closed a decade after the bishop’s death in 1852. Today, the land is owned by the state of Illinois, and it is managed as a state park by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

  • A view of Jubilee College, courtesy of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

In the early 1800s, an Episcopal Bishop, Philander Chase, had made a name for himself by establishing Kenyon College in Ohio in 1824. After this enterprise, Bishop Chase found himself in Illinois in 1839 and opted to build yet another college, this time what he would call Jubilee College. Though he was getting along in years, Bishop Chase was not deterred from his purpose, and he set about constructing the College, which ultimately included within it a seminary, a prep school for boys, and a modified seminary for girls, in addition to the main college campus and farming operations elsewhere on the campus. The construction took five years, finishing in 1844, including dormitories for the students therein.

For a time, Jubilee College attracted a significant number of eager students willing to learn under the tutelage of Bishop Chase and his faculty there. However, Bishop Chase died in 1852, just a few years after the completion of the College. Jubilee College continued to offer its services for a decade after Bishop Chase’s death, but in 1862, the College closed its doors as an institution. The College, then placed under private ownership, sat unused for decades until it was given to the state of Illinois in 1933. From then on, Jubilee College was treated as a state park, and was then put under restoration and maintenance details. Today, the Jubilee College State Park offers visitors guided tours of several of the buildings in the College’s campus.