Indiana State University was established in 1865 as Indiana State Normal School. As a “normal school,” its purpose was training elementary and high school teachers. Teaching methods reflected those used in a real-life classroom. Some of Terre Haute’s oldest buildings still stand in this scenic campus. Much of the university’s history can be learned from these historic buildings. From the Condit House, which is the oldest structure on campus, to the former site of Union Station, now the Michael Simmons Student Activity Center. The history found on campus tells of the significance of higher education to Terre Haute.
The Normal School opened its doors in January 1870 with a partially-finished building and a student body of only 23 students. In April of 1888 the school was almost completely destroyed by a fire. Classes were moved to temporary quarters and instruction resumed the very next day. That fall the building had been completely rebuilt on the old foundations. This building was called “Old Main” and has since been demolished. In 1909 Normal Hall was constructed as the school’s library. It is the only structure remaining from the university’s normal school era, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
The Normal School was renamed the Indiana State Teachers College in 1929, the Indiana State College in 1961, and Indiana State University in 1965. By this time the school had expanded to offer degrees in business, health and human services, technology, and the arts and sciences.