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Altgeld Hall Tower, Urbana

#13 of 19 in Things to do in Urbana
Architectural Building · Hidden Gem · Tourist Spot
Altgeld Hall, located at 1409 West Green Street in Urbana, Illinois on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) campus, was built in 1896-97 and was designed by Nathan Ricker and James McLaren White of the University's architecture department in the Richardsonian Romanesque style. The building was originally the University Library, and received major additions in 1914, 1919, 1926, and 1956. From 1927-55 it was used by the College of Law, and from 1955 on by the Department of Mathematics and the Mathematics Library. The University Chime in the bell tower - which marks the hours, half hours, and quarter hours and plays a ten-minute concert every school day from 12:50 - 1:00 PM - was installed in 1920. The building was officially named "Altgeld Hall" in 1941.
Altgeld Hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 17, 1970.
DesignPlanning for the building started in 1892, with Governor John Peter Altgeld and University President Andrew Sloan Draper involved in the design of the building. Initially, the trustees announced a design contest that would award $1200 to the best design. The trustees awarded the prize to Edward G. Bolles, a young man with no experience in building design, but after the building committee met with the young man, they decided to reject the Bolles entry and all the other entries submitted.
Based on a suggestion made by Governor Altgeld, the building committee offered the commission to Daniel Burnham, fresh from his success as the organizing architect of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Artistic conflicts between Burnham and the Governor soon became clear, and the relationship was severed. After two years of looking for an acceptable design, the building committee called upon the university's own architecture department. On February 4, 1896, Professors Nathan Ricker and James McLaren White completed the design plans that included construction costs in less than a month.
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  • It used to be possible for people visit the belfry on Fridays between 12:30 and 1 pm. No longer. Still worth a visit, for the sounds and for the math/statistics library, which has a beautiful...  more »
  • When I was a student at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in 1958-1962, I always counted on Altgeld Hall's Bell Tower to provide the correct time. Installed in 1920, the University...  more »

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