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Classic Grounds and Academic Shades

The Physical Development of Illinois State University


Written by Mark Plummer, Emeritus Professor of History, Illinois State University, with contributions by Bruce Stoffel, Milner Library, Illinois State University.

Jesse Fell is often called the founder of Illinois State University, the first state university in Illinois.  McLean County boosters outbid other locations, and Fell’s friend, Abraham Lincoln, drew up the bond guarantee for the Board of Education.

Illinois State Normal University (ISNU) opened on October 5, 1857.  It was the tenth "Normal" school to be established in the United States and the second west of the mountains. "Normal" was the title given to institutions for teachers, and it was called a university to justify the use of money from the university fund and to leave open the possibility of other functions.

The History

Major's Hall in Bloomington was used as temporary quarters. The building was the site of the first Illinois Republican Party Convention in 1856 where Lincoln made his "Lost Speech." Three plaques have been placed at the corner of Front and East streets to commemorate those events.
1860 "Old" Main construction was delayed by a depression, but the magnificent $145,000 four-story domed building was completed in spite of the default of several guarantors.  The December 23, 1857, Proceedings of the State Board of Education show that A. Lincoln, Esq. was authorized "to collect the several sums due." 

The board proceedings also show that Fell was quick to insist on the proper tree planting and landscaping of the campus. He was "appointed to procure a landscape gardener to lay off the University grounds, and pay him fifty dollars out of his own subscription." William Saunders, a landscape gardener from Philadelphia, who later laid out the Gettysburg Cemetery and the Lincoln Tomb grounds, was chosen and paid $65 by Fell.  Although the implementation of Saunder’s grand plan was delayed by depression and by the Civil War, Jesse Fell gained a seat on the governing board and, in 1868, he reported having set out 1,470 evergreen and deciduous tress "in the main to conform to the original plan for these grounds, furnished by William Saunders."  (A Grange plaque honoring Saunders is mounted on a rock in front of Cook Hall.) 

An enthusiastic reporter from Peoria noted that Fell’s planting of shade and ornamental trees had added greatly "to the beauty of the 'classic grounds and Academic shades' of the University." The Old Main dominated the campus for almost a hundred years before being torn down in 1958. A monument depicting the building stands on the former site in the center of the campus. There is also an inscription by a stone bench on the southeast corner of the quad, which reads: "May Majors Hall Brick and Old Main Stone – Reminders of the Past – Continue to Nurture a Greater Future."
1892 North Hall was built for the practice school at a cost of $24,000. It was located immediately north of Main near the approach to the present bridge across College Avenue. It was torn down in the 1960's.
1897 Cook Hall was built as a gymnasium for $76,000. Governor John P. Altgeld, a native of Germany, insisted that all state buildings should be built as castles. It was first known as the gymnasium, then as the "old castle," and later it was named for John W. Cook, the fourth president of ISNU. Cook Hall was rehabilitated in 1987 for the Music Department.
1909 Edwards Hall. One hundred and ten thousand dollars was appropriated to build a building for the manual arts. The hall, later called the Industrial Arts building, was renamed for Richard Edwards, the second president of ISNU. The building includes Capen Auditorium, named for Charles Capen, Teachers College Board member.
1912 Moulton Hall was built for $140,000. The teacher training building was called Metcalf and it was later designated as University High School before being renamed, in 1963, for Samuel W. Moulton, president of the Illinois Board of Education, 1857-66 and 1867-1877. Later it was rehabilitated for the sciences. The Manual Arts building (Edwards) on the west and the Training School (Moulton) on the east were connected to Old Main by passageways.
1918 Fell Hall became the first dormitory on the campus. It was built for women at the cost of about $150,000. It is named for Jesse W. Fell, one of the founders of the university. It was remodeled for office and classroom space and reopened in 1992.
1925 McCormick Gymnasium was originally called Felmley. In 1930, it was renamed for Henry McCormick, a faculty member from 1869 to 1919. The building completed the L-shaped configuration of the campus buildings. Walking north from McCormick gym one would pass Fell Hall and Cook Hall. At Edwards, a turn east would lead to Old Main and Metcalf (Moulton), exiting the campus at Fell Gate, where Hovey Hall now stands.
1930 Felmley Hall of Science cost $140,000 and was named for David Felmley, ISNU's president 1900-30. A major annex was added in 1964.
1939 Rambo House for home management, honored Jessie E. Rambo, the first head of the Home Economics Department.
1940 Williams Hall, a brick Georgian, $556,000 building, was Milner Library until it was reconstructed for the College of Business in 1981. It is named for Arthur R. Williams, ISNU faculty member, 1914-1945, the first head of the Business Education Department.
1950 Hovey Hall. It was necessary to move Fell Gate a few yards to the north to make room for the $1,136,000 Administration Building, which was renamed, in 1959, in honor of the first ISNU president. An annex was completed in 1968.
1951 Fairchild Hall for Special Education was built west of University Street at a cost of about a million dollars. It was named for Raymond W. Fairchild, the eighth ISNU president.
1951 - 1955 Dunn (1951), Barton (1951), and Walker (1955), red brick residence halls, formed a quadrangle, south of Fairchild Hall.  They were named for Richard Dunn, long-time legal counsel to the Teachers College Board; Olive Lillian Barton, ISNU dean of women from 1911 to 1940; and Lewis Walker, President of the Teachers College Board from 1946 to 1960.
1956 Media Services opened as the Student Union and was later known as the University Union. It was paid for by student fees and through a fund drive. The Union completed the horseshoe shaped central campus as it was placed between the Library and the Administration Buildings on the east side of the quad.
1957 Schroeder Hall was built to provide some of the classroom space lost with the demolition of Old Main. A major annex was added in 1964. The building was named for Dean Herman H. Schroeder, who served as acting president in 1930.
1957 Metcalf School, an elementary laboratory school, was opened north of Fairchild Hall. It honors Thomas Metcalf, a faculty member from 1862 to 1894.
1959 Centennial Fine Arts Building. Construction of the south campus building began during the centennial of ISNU.
1960 Hamilton-Whitten, the first of the high-rise residence halls, opened in time for the Fall semester only because President Bone led the faculty in carrying in the furniture. Its twin ten-story tower, Atkin-Colby opened in 1962. The residence halls are south of the Dunn-Barton, Walker Hall complex. These women's halls are named for Alma H. Hamilton, the first recipient of an ISNU bachelor's degree; Jennie Whitten, former head of the Foreign Languages Department; Edith Irene Atkin, ISNU Mathematics Professor from 1909 to 1940; and June Rose Colby, an English Professor from 1892 to 1932.
1962 Tri-Towers opened the new campus, west of Main Street. The residential halls are named for Martha D.L. Haynie, the first woman to be an ISNU professor; Daniel Wilkins, 1850's Principal of the Female School Institute of Bloomington; and Simeon Wright, a University founding father.
1963 Horton Field House / Hancock Stadium, on the west campus honors Clifford E. "Pop" Horton, who was Director of the Health and Physical Education Department from 1923 to 1961, and Howard Hancock, Director of Athletics from 1931 to 1963.
1963 Turner Hall shares the west campus. It was named for Jonathan B. Turner, a founder of ISNU.
1965 University High was moved from the central campus to a new facility north of the new Field House.
1966 Hewett and Manchester are seventeen-story residence halls located northeast of the central campus on a site formerly occupied by Normal's Central School, which was briefly used as a university classroom building before it was demolished. The halls honor Edwin C. Hewett, the University's third president, and Orson L. Manchester, ISNU Dean from 1911 to 1928.
1968 - 1970 Watterson Towers. The connected twenty-eight story towers, with two sets of five-story stacked "houses," named for the first ten U.S. Secretaries of State, constitute perhaps the tallest residence hall in the United States. The complex is named for Arthur W. Watterson, Geography faculty member and Chair.
1968 Stevenson Hall is a classroom building on the block east of the central campus. It is named for Adlai E. Stevenson II, who attended University High School and who was the Democratic nominee for president in 1952 and 1956 and the United Nations Ambassador under President Kennedy. "Logos," a twenty-seven foot high bronze sculpture, memorialized Stevenson. It is situated in the courtyard between Stevenson Hall and Watterson Towers.
1970 Julian Hall honors Percy Julian, a distinguished scientist and former member of the Board of Regents, who was immortalized by having his likeness placed on a stamp as part of the Postal Service’s Black Heritage Series in 1993.
1973 Center for the Visual Arts (CVA) is the southern-most building on the main quad.
1973 DeGarmo Hall, home of the College of Education, is a modern building adjacent to the castle, Cook Hall. It is named for Charles DeGarmo, an influential ISNU faculty member who studied in Germany and transmitted the Herbartian educational philosophy to much of the faculty in the late nineteenth century.
1973 Bone Student Center / Braden Auditorium. Named in 1982 in honor of Illinois State University President Robert and Mrs. Karin Bone (1956-66) and President Samuel and Mrs. Beth Braden (1967-70).
1976 Milner Library carries the name of Ange Vernon Milner, ISNU librarian from 1890 to 1927, from the old library (Williams Hall) to the block north of College Avenue. The street was lowered about eight feet to allow for a pedestrian overpass which extends the central quad at about the same rate of ascent as that which was landscaped by William Saunders in 1859.
1982 Ropp Agriculture Building also shares the west campus. It was named for Clarence R. Ropp, a McLean County farm leader.
1989 Redbird Arena is a ten thousand seat sports facility located on the west campus. It is named for the school's mascot.
1992 Student Services Building, located west of the Bone Student Center, was built as a revenue bond project.
1997 Science Laboratory Building, located east of Julian Hall, supports teaching and research in the Departments of Chemistry and Biological Sciences. Built at a cost of $35 million, the building includes a suite of laboratories supporting students in a new biochemistry/molecular biology major.
2002 Performing Arts Center, located at the southeast corner of the Quad and south of Williams Hall, opened in the fall of 2002. The facility includes a 630-830 seat concert hall for the Department of Music and a 450-500 seat proscenium theater for the Theatre Department. The $18 million facility was funded through student fees and private donations.
2005 College of Business is located on the south side of the Quad and opened for classes in January 2005. The 72,000 square-foot, Georgian-style building has been designed to allow for the integration of state-of-the-art technology into classes, to encourage collaborative atmosphere between students and faculty, and to foster interaction between students, alumni, and university business partners. Construction of the building was made possible by a gift from the State Farm Companies Foundation. Designed by VOA, the building will unite all business faculty and students in one location for the first time in more than 20 years.


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Last Updated: 8/16/12