restricted access Chapter 3. Growth and Transformation: 1920-1933
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21 Chapter 3 Growth and Transformation 1920-1933 On a cool, wet Sunday in September 1919, hundreds of prospective students—many of them World War I veterans —left Champaign-Urbana after trudging through the rain-soaked streets in a fruitless search for lodging. Those who did find rooms were seen the next morning patiently waiting in a double line that stretched from the registrar’s office in University Hall north across tree-lined Green Street to the murky Boneyard Creek. This enrollment boom would surge through the university—now a half-century old—and ignite a drastic rethinking of the “place” of campus. University officials had anticipated higher enrollment that fall but didn’t expect so many to show up. At 7,102, enrollment surpassed 1918’s by more than two thousand and was some one thousand higher than the school record, with continued upward pressure predicted. Clearly, the campus would need new buildings to accommodate new students. The task of expanding the university fell to fifty-eightyear -old President David Kinley (1919-1930), a Scotsman who took over from the ailing President James, whose official sixteen-year term would end the next year. Kinley, a Yale-trained economist, was a natural fit: he had loyally and competently served the university for more than a quartercentury , including as dean of the Graduate School. He excelled as an administrator but was seen as cold, humorless, and brusque, inspiring admiration rather than affection. “Another man from the East and I think they had better kept him there,” the legendary naturalist Stephen Forbes, then the U of I College of Science dean, reportedly said of Kinley shortly after they first met in 1893. Kinley also had a volcanic temper. A botany professor said the U of I president once was so angry during a meeting with a student that he kicked a wastebasket around his office. Yet he was a hard worker who got things done. He was interested in the physical plant—the place of the university— and campus planning. Frank W. Scott, an influential alumnus, lamented what he believed was Kinley’s neglect of academics in favor of “architecture, construction, and landscape gardening .” But the times called for a CEO who was a planner and builder. And once again, the man met the moment. Late in 1919 Kinley surveyed the campus and found that at least fourteen new buildings and twelve additions were urgently needed. This sheer scale of development demanded 22 —— Chapter 3 —— Figure 3.1. White (and Tilton) Plan, 1919, presented 1920. This ambitious plan included new ideas, such as terminating the east-west campus axis, making Green Street a boulevard, and siting a “men’s group” of buildings north of the Armory. The Military Grounds and recreation areas are enlarged. (Image courtesy of University of Illinois Archives.) 23 —— Grow th a nd Tr a nsfor mation —— That was obvious as early as January 1916 when Holabird and Roche panned the campus layout. “It is evident to anyone that the buildings as a group have lacked so far the benefit of a general plan of development,” the architects said. (One can only wonder what White or Blackall thought of that assessment.) The firm urged creation of a plan to harmonize the campus, one featuring “low buildings” with “wellstudied and appropriate detail” and “a simple and uniform color scheme.” They advised the trustees to settle on a suitable architectural style for the buildings and suggested the Woman’s Building (the English Building) as an ideal model. Four years after this trial run, Holabird and Roche finally got its shot at reshaping the U of I campus. James White did not welcome the news, as he explained in a letter to President James. “I am opposed to the whole proposition,” White wrote, “because the Board have already located all of the buildings which can be built within the next five years, and we haven’t very many thousand dollars to spend on that sort of work at this time. I should like to have Holabird and Roche in a consulting relation to us, but I feel that they are not the best people to make such a study of the campus development , providing the trustees want one made.” Despite White’s reservations, Holabird and Roche forged ahead. Early in the process, the firm proposed that the board of trustees adopt the Georgian style of architecture for all future campus buildings, with the future Horticulture Field Laboratory pegged to kick things off...