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Lawn Tennis, Anyone?

Lawn Tennis, Anyone?

  • Kevin Mungons
  • April 20, 2023

In the earliest days of Moody Bible Institute, Monday was a rest day—no classes. Students might enjoy a picnic, croquet, or biking. The more adventurous would play lawn tennis, rapidly becoming a popular sport.

At the time of this 1895 photo—recently rediscovered in the Moody Archives—the closest tennis courts were a block away on Clark Street, north of Chestnut. The Newberry Library can be seen in the background, built by Walter L. Newberry after his own book collection was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.


And if you are wondering about those neckties, no, it wasn’t a strange requirement of the Moody dress code. Tennis was still considered a genteel, formal affair where men wore ties and women played in ankle-length skirts. Wilfred Baddeley won the 1895 Wimbledon tournament wearing a necktie.

“Tennis has been a popular pastime with the men students,” reported The Institute Tie in 1900. “The lot at the corner of Clark and Chestnut streets has been used through the courtesy of Ogden, Sheldon & Co.”

Students formed a Recreation Club in 1903 and continued to use the courts until they were replaced by a building project.

The next generation of Moody students played tennis (sans neckties) at the corner of Chicago Avenue and LaSalle Boulevard, where the old Moody Church once stood. When the aging auditorium was demolished in 1939, enterprising students noted that the rectangular vacant lot was just the right size for a court. They persuaded Dean P. B. Fitzwater to approve the project, an easy sell—he loved tennis and often played with the students at lunchtime. The makeshift fun lasted for 10 years until the 1949 excavation of Houghton Hall.

About the Author

  • Kevin Mungons

Kevin Mungons is a Backlist Curator at Moody Publishers.