Chapter 9. Icons
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166 Chapter 9 Icons Introduction A campus is a community of scholars, a collection of buildings , and an organized landscape. It is a place with purpose. Professors impart knowledge—which changes, inexorably , by new discovery or interpretation—to successive waves of students. Researchers explore and shape the natural and manmade universe from molecule to moon and gene to petascale . Scholars explore the hidden meanings of obscure texts, archaeologists fan out across the globe, and artists paint and perform. Semesters and seasons pass, class cohorts arrive and leave, new alumni are minted in grand ceremonies with processions, trumpets, banners, regalia. If a generation is twenty years—rapidly moving toward twenty-five years as childbearing is delayed—then eight backto -back generations of students have passed through the place of the University of Illinois. By mid-2015, the UrbanaChampaign campus claimed some 453,085 living alumni, a population equal to that of a midsized U.S. city. The earliest students of the Urbana-Champaign campus—fifty pioneers (all men) who matriculated in March 1868—studied, ate, and slept by gaslight in a single building on University Avenue. They and the generations that followed lived impressionable years as campus features grew up around them: vast lawns, chimes, gardens, benches, statues, playing fields, and stadiums that, in time, became iconic. These icons were powerful symbols of a time lived on the University of Illinois campus. Revisited years or decades later, they harbor emotional content and jog memories of an influential place and time. For those fortunate enough to work long careers at the Illini Place, echoes and shadows of the past are a daily presence. What follow are small stories about a sampling of the most obvious campus icons. Many date to the twentieth century , a few have been significantly altered or lost entirely, and one—the Hallene Gateway—is a special tale of the past rediscovered, resurrected, and reborn in a new generation. Key Spaces and Places The Quad The Quadrangle is arguably the campus’s single most evocative and important space, a well-manicured front yard 167 —— Icons —— The quadrangle is a staple of European and American college campuses. At the University of Illinois, the Quad sheltered turn-of-the-century coeds costumed as ears of corn or twirling in flowing spring gowns on May Day. The Quad has witnessed political protest, religious argument , fundraising, flag burnings, bake sales, pep rallies, movies, teach-ins, concerts, streaking (including students flanked by beautifully scaled yet architecturally diverse stone and brick buildings, crisscrossed by heavily trafficked sidewalks, and lighted and landscaped up, down, and across its twelve-hundred-by-two-hundred-foot expanse. At its north end, the gleaming white and red-brick, colonial-style Illini Union; at its south, the domed and lighted Foellinger Auditorium. Figure 9.1.  University of Illinois Quad and Illini Union. The Quad is the center of the campus. It remains the center of activities and the U of I’s iconic center. Thirteen buildings, housing mostly liberal arts and sciences disciplines, surround the Quad, which established the north-south orientation of the growth and expansion of the U of I. (Photo by L. Brian Stauffer, University News Bureau.) 168 —— Chapter 9 —— The question of where to build an auditorium arose in 1905, and new president Edmund Janes James (1904-20) turned the issue over to a commission that included an astonishing cast of characters, all alumni: famed Boston architect/ planner Clarence H. Blackall, class of 1877; Chicago sculptor Lorado Taft, class of 1879 (who later would design the Alma Mater grouping); prolific and pioneering architect Nathan C. Ricker, class of 1873, and, University Architect James McLaren White, class of 1890, who served the campus and community for more than four decades. Blackall not only designed the anticipated building, which would cost $96,000 and seat twenty-five hundred (later reduced), but in short order (by today’s standards) unilaterally laid out a plan for further campus development— including a quadrangle whose southern terminus—on a slight natural rise—was the proposed auditorium. At the north were the 1896 library (now Altgeld Hall); Harker Hall, built in 1878 as the chemistry lab; and University Hall (sometimes called Old Main), which was built in 1873-74 and razed in 1938 to make room for the Illini Union. Blackall brought his campus plan to the board of trustees in early 1906. The board appropriated $250 for additional planning help in the person of John C. Olmsted of Brookline, Massachusetts, the nephew and...