Landmarks and Lore: a Snapshot of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Tour curated by: Explore CU staff

Landmarks and Lore: a Snapshot of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign presents us with many of the historically significant sights and stories that have woven the tapestry that is the University.

From its founding in 1868 to today, the University has grown from a single building to 17 colleges and 286 buildings, spread out over 1,468 acres of land. In that time it has accomplished much, including the development of a NCAA Division I athletic program, the creation of the nation’s oldest agricultural experimental fields, and the invention of the first online community. The physical spaces that become beloved parts of the experiences and memories of the University community are featured here.

In addition, the University of Illinois has a long history of lore. Stories passed down and around through generations of students are just as much a part of the University experience as are the buildings and structures that hold them. Is there really a ghost in the English Building, or a tractor buried under Memorial Stadium? Does rubbing Lincoln’s nose in Lincoln Hall really bring luck? Whether or not these stories are true is moot; each help to reveal our character and history.

Locations for Tour

Altgeld Hall, originally known as the Library Building, is one of the oldest and most unique buildings on campus. Dedicated on June 8th, 1897, it was designed by Professor Nathan Ricker, the first person to receive a degree in architecture both from…

Since its dedication, Alma Mater has been a symbol of the University of Illinois. Affectionately referred to as ‘Alma’, she stands in front of her throne with open arms welcoming visitors, students, and alumni to the heart of campus. Although a…

The University of Illinois is home to one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world: Blue Waters. This Cray supercomputer–built from hundreds of thousands of computer processors–can carry out quadrillions of calculations every second. By…

Though it may be hard to believe, squirrels weren't always as prevalent on campus as they are today. In fact, in 1901, squirrels were in such scarcity that the university payed $250, which is about $6500 today, to buy squirrels to domesticate…

The English Building, originally known as the Women's Building, was dedicated on October 16th, 1905, and served as a women's dormitory until 1937. It also housed a pool and locker rooms on its lower level, and a 92' x 50'…

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a group of pranksters calling themselves the Statue Liberation Society kept busy by 'borrowing' various statues around the University of Illinois campus. In 1979 the Lincoln bust that sits in the main…

In February 1919, a special committee was appointed by the University War Committee to “undertake a preliminary consideration of a permanent memorial at the University of Illinois” to commemorate the University’s involvement in World War I, as…

In October 1894 it was increasingly apparent that the University needed to adopt official colors, as the colors that the University was using to decorate and the colors that the athletic teams were using were not the same. With the dedication of the…

Albert E. Marion was designated as Chimesmaster in 1958 and held the title until 1994 when he was honored as Chimesmaster Emeritus. It was Marion's dream to have a full 49 bell, full octave bell tower in Altgeld Hall's bell tower…

Established in 1876, the Morrow Plots, also called the Soil Experimentation Fields, are the oldest agricultural research fields in the United States and second oldest in the world, predated only by the Rothamsted Field in England in 1843. Named for…

The Hallene Gateway was originally the entrance to University Hall, which was also known as New Main Hall or the New University Building. Built in 1872, University Hall was the the fourth building on campus, after the Mechanical Building and Drill…

John Milton Gregory was elected the first Regent, which was akin to President, of the Illinois Industrial University by the first Board of Trustees. Gregory was an important figure in shaping the future of the University, now known as the University…

In the early 1870s, sixty percent of the American population lived on small farms in rural areas. At the time, farmers were producing enough food to sustain their families, but with little excess to profit from. The College of Agriculture at the…

The University of Illinois' Stock Judging Pavilion was built in 1913 in a Renaissance-style design for $112,000. At over 30,000 square feet, this building holds a show arena for livestock that is 216 feet long, 65 feet wide, and mostly made of…
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