NU's First Fields


Before Northwestern played its home football games at Dyche Stadium / Ryan Field, it played at old Northwestern Field, a stadium that was located almost exactly where the current stadium stands. Before that, the Purple played  at Sheppard Field, where the fraternity quads are now (you can see details about each of these sits in the Home Sites Section of this Webpage).

Where did NU play, however, before it moved its field to the Sheppard site in 1891? Here things get a bit murky. The common answer is "Deering Meadow," and that is mostly correct. The meadow, simply called Campus Meadow back then, was used by Northwestern for its home games until 1891. However, it was not the original site for the field.

The original site was a couple of hundred yards north of the present-day Deering Meadow, where the Jacobs Center now stands. Northwestern cleared this area in the early 1870s to use as a baseball and football grounds. Football at this point, it should be noted, was not what we think of as American football, but more of a rough-and-tumble soccer-style kicking game, with virtually no rules. The school first used this area to play football in 1874. The games were just interclass affairs, in which the classes kicked a ball around the field.

Northwestern used this field to play its first "real" game of football in February 1876, against the Chicago Foot-Ball Club. The school continued to use the field through 1885. The field was originally quite large, spanning over 175 feet by over 350 feet, but was made smaller in the early 1880s.

At some point in 1886, construction on the campus interfered with the athletic grounds. The school was forced to move the field slightly south, to a spot directly next to Heck Hall (Heck Hall was where Deering Library is now). It is unknown if NU played its single 1886 game-- a loss to Harvard Prep, a high school in Chicago-- on the old field or the new. However, all home games on campus from 1887 through 1890 were definitely played on the more southern field, including the first-ever game with Notre Dame in 1889.

The map below shows the exact spots of NU's first home football fields.