Thornhill Education Center

Landmarks, 2.53108

Joy Morton Memorial Building
Thornhill Building
Thornhill Conference Center

1923 created
When Joy Morton established his country estate in 1910, he named it "Thornhill" because it stood atop a slope overlooking beautiful hawthorn trees. Jarvis Hunt designed the half-timbered stucco home as well as its 1912 addition. Another wing, designed by Frank W. Perkins, was added in 1915. Although it was chiefly a family home, Morton envisioned Thornhill as an integral part of the Arboretum when he added the library in 1923, the first major building constructed specifically for Arboretum use.

After Joy Morton's widow, Margaret Gray Morton, passed away in 1940, Thornhill became property of the Arboretum. In addition to suffering from a crumbling foundation, the Thornhill residence was not adaptable to the Arboretum's needs, particularly for its growing education program. Consequently, the house was razed in 1941 except for the library wing, which is now known as the Founder's Room and Godshalk Hall. The trustees commissioned Holabird and Root to design an education center that connected to the Thornhill library. Constructed of Lannon stone, the new education center was situated similarly to its predecessor; like the former residence, its main entrance faced north and the building showcased the beautiful view of the hawthorn-dotted slope that attracted Joy Morton to the location. It featured a large lounge that could be reconfigured to a lecture room that seated 250 people, and the library underwent renovations that included a new roof, ceiling, and floor. Taking the name of the residence that it replaced, the Thornhill Building opened on August 15, 1942.

In the 1970s, the education department moved from Thornhill to the Administration Building on the East Side of the Arboretum, so that it would be closer to the library, herbarium, and other educational resources. After the education department relocated, Thornhill housed offices for affiliated organizations, such as the Northeast Illinois Natural Resource Service Center, and it continued to be a popular choice for conferences, conventions, and meetings sponsored by the Arboretum. However, the education department would later return to Thornhill. On Arbor Day in 1994 the Thornhill Education Center reopened after a three-year rehabilitation project by the Bauer Latoza Studio, which converted existing space into additional classrooms and staff offices for the education department.