Wichita State University began in 1886 as a private Congregational preparatory school, founded by Rev. Joseph Homer Parker. Initially it was referred to as "Young Ladies College", "Wichita Ladies College", and "Congregational Female College". It was part of a boom in college and university creation and was envisioned to admit women twelve years and older who were "able to read, write, spell and recite the parts of speech." In early 1887, the project's leaders received a land parcel from the developers of the adjacent Fairmount Neighborhood and in response, renamed their school Fairmount College.
Envisioned to be the "Vassar of the West," the streets of the neighboring neighborhoods were named after prominent women's colleges including Vassar and Holyoke. Support came mainly from the Plymouth Congregational Church to build it, but the school never opened its doors. In 1892, a corporation bought the property and named the preparatory school Fairmount Institute. It opened in September to men and women, with an emphasis on training in preaching or teaching. It closed because of financial difficulties.