It's that time of year again—college students and their families are moving into colleges all across Illinois. Peculiar sights at five of our state universities are large, castle-like buildings. Why do they look like that? Why are there so many? Read on to find out.
Students and their families are seeing these buildings for the first time as they move into state universities across Illinois. Maybe you've also wondered about the stories behind these castles. Read on to learn more.
"Altgeld's Castles" are buildings in the Gothic Revival style in five Illinois universities, all built at the initiative or inspiration of Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld, pictured above.
Altgeld served as the 20th Governor of Illinois from 1893–1897.
During his term as governor, Altgeld expressed certain opinions on how buildings should be erected in the state of Illinois. In his second biennial message to the state legislature, he discussed how buildings were being constructed without consideration for their outward appearance.
He stated that it was time for buildings to become more aesthetically pleasing in addition to being functional, and he suggested the "Tudor-Gothic style" as the most inexpensive way to do this. Consequently, several of the state universities in Illinois erected buildings which resembled castles in his honor. (Wikipedia)
Altgeld Hall, built in 1896 at the cost of $40,000, is the oldest surviving building on Southern Illinois University at Carbondale's campus. It originally housed the library and laboratories for the departments of physics, chemistry and biological science, and a gymnasium.
Following a major remodeling project in 1958, Altgeld became the home to the School of Music. From 2002 until 2004, the building underwent a massive renovation. (Wikipedia)
The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign's Altgeld Hall was completed in 1897 by architects Nathan Clifford Ricker and James White.
The Board of Trustees initially adopted the classical design by prominent Chicago architect Daniel Burnham. Altgeld's opposition to the classical design ultimately caused Burnham's withdrawal from the project.
Since its construction, Altgeld’s building has undergone many names and purposes. Governor Altgeld had a huge interest in education and believed that the campus should have a library, so the building was originally used for this purpose. At the time of its construction the building became known as simply the University Library.
In 1927, though, the Law Department decided it needed a new place on campus and it moved into University Library, renaming the building “Law Building.” In 1940, the Law Building was renamed in honor if its creator, and was hereafter called Altgeld Hall.
Eventually the Law Building was yet again converted into a new purpose, housing the Mathematics Department while the Law Department received a new building. Though the Mathematics Department and the Mathematics Library reside in this building, one can still see the title “Law Building” engraved on the north entrance. (Wikipedia)
Now known as John W. Cook Hall, this building was once known as “Altgeld’s Folly.” When the original plans were drawn up for the construction of the building, Governor Altgeld rejected them because he wanted a building that looked more like German castles along the Rhine river.
In 1898 the building was completed by local architects, Miller & Fisher, who took some creative liberties in the castle’s construction. Though the building contains turret styles with towers and battlement like Governor Altgeld wanted, the architects also added their own flair by using Bedford limestone.
The building was designed to be fireproof, which is why the University utilized it as a library. The building was also originally used as a gymnasium.
After being a gymnasium for so long, the building eventually came to also house the University radio station, WGLT. More recently, Cook Hall has been remodeled to become the School of Music building. The building holds practice rooms, rehearsal halls, and many classrooms.
Cook Hall is the only building on the Illinois State University campus that is on the National Register of Historic Places. (Wikipedia)
Built between 1895 and 1899, Altgeld Hall was originally called the "Castle on the Hill," built by Charles E. Brush of Chicago. The general contractor was William J. McAlpine. Construction started on September 17, 1895 and was completed on September 22, 1899 at a cost of $230,000.
When Altgeld Hall first opened, it housed the entire university. It was a classroom, boardroom, library, gymnasium, administrative office building, and lecture hall. It housed chemical and physical laboratories, executive offices, a 1,200 seat auditorium, biology labs, a study hall, a museum, and classrooms.
Altgeld Hall underwent a $24 million renovation project which began in 1999 and ended with the rededication on October 7, 2004. The Altgeld restoration was undertaken to rescue the university’s landmark structure, which was badly deteriorated. The interior of the building was remodeled several times over the years, but major structural problems went largely unaddressed.
A time capsule was buried under the front arches on NIU's 75th Anniversary in 1974. It will be opened on the 150th anniversary in 2049. (Wikipedia)
Old Main, formally named the Livingston C. Lord Administration Building, was completed in 1899. Old Main was built with Indiana limestone with a Gothic revival style with turrets, towers, and battlements. This distinctive outline is the official symbol of the school.
Eastern Illinois University and Illinois State University are the only schools with "castles" not named after Altgeld.
Old Main was constructed as Eastern Illinois University's first building in 1899. (Wikipedia)