“….The foundations of the building had been laid, but no work had been done for about a year. Two shanties near the building covered the lumber and other material, and made a temporary house for the keeper. What is now the campus, was then a cornfield, with neither tree nor shrub. It was part of an old farm, whose eastern boundary was a ditch on the west side of what is now Fell avenue. East of that, the site of the town of Normal, was a wild prairie, with no roads, and not more than five or six houses within the limits of the whole present corporation.
The clay to make the brick for the building was dug just east of where the Baptist church now is; and the brick was burned on the present site of the public school house. In the spring of 1861, this brick-yard had been leveled off, and it constituted the students’ parade-ground. Every afternoon when school had closed the young men drilled diligently on this spot, to the music of ‘Left’ Left.’ Those who saw this scene will never forget it; and those who have been born since that time, can never appreciate it."
--Edwin C. Hewett, professor emeritus and former president of Illinois State Normal University, writing about his first visit to the site of Old Main in October of 1858. He commented on the students preparing for service in the Civil War. His essay, “I.S.N.U: Wisdom Let Loose,” appeared in the first Index, the 1892 Class Annual.
See the links at left to explore the Old Main Timeline, a view of the original floor layout, and 3D Virtual Tour of the Third Floor developed by intern Dave Watt.