The History of Ottawa Pleasant View Academy
Ottawa (population 18,500) is located in north central Illinois in LaSalle County, serving
as the county seat. The community is the home of the confluence of the Fox and Illinois Rivers in the central of town, and
is known for the silica sand that is mined daily to make replacement glass products as well as automobile glass products,
such as windshields. It is centrally located along Interstate 80, US 6, and Illinois Route 23 & 71.
In addition, the community boasts of its ties to history with Abraham Lincoln as it was the home
of the first debate between the 16th President of the United States and Stephen Douglas in Washington Square. A stone
boulder marks the spot where the stage was located for the event, and a mural portraying the debate is painted on the wall
of a nearby building facing the square. In addition, the Reddick Mansion borders the square, having been built by
glassblower William Reddick in the 1850's.
Pleasant View Academy was opened in the fall of 1896 as a preparatory course
to Pleasant View Luther College, a two-year institution that was founded the previous year and was affiliated
with the Lutheran Church. According to archivist Gary DeKrey at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, he stated to this author:
"It appears that the 'preparatory course' was a part of the Pleasant View curriculum from the beginning
of the school, which was founded in 1895 and opened for the 1896-97 academic year. Eventually, the 'preparatory course' or
academy became a full-fledged high school, but I am not sure when that happened. Pleasant View itself did not ever become
a four year college. It was eventually called a 'junior college.' The relationship between the academy or high school and
the college was a very close one: same faculty, and many students progressing from one to the other rather seamlessly.
"It looks to me like 1935-36 was the last academic year of the institution. I ran across a letter of April
1936 from its president to somebody at St. Olaf indicating that they were trying to figure what to do with the facilities
at that point. So I think you can assume that the high school was there for the institution's forty year existence, whether
it was called the 'preparatory course,' the 'academy,' or the 'high school.'"
All the grade records and course catalogs from PVA and the junior college are stored at St. Olaf College,
which also hosts archival information for the Norwegian-American Historical Association. The buildings are no longer
standing, and the grounds are now the home for the Pleasant View Luther Home. In that neighborhood, some of the
street names reflect the school's history with names like College, University, Erickson, View, and Lockrem.