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Illinois State University
Illinois State University
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Original Floor Plans

Before the Old Main was a building, it began as a plan to construct the first public institution of higher education in Illinois. Illinois State Normal University and the Main Building were synonymous.

Old Main's architect, George P. Randall of Chicago, called the style "modified Renaissance" but the constructed building was a unclassifiable mixture of architectural features. President Charles Hovey took an active role in researching and planning the buidling. The final construction, however, was neither his idea nor Randall's, but a compromise that included many features demanded by local people and investors.

Although the floor plans were modified over the course of construction, the original plans remain in archives. The following drawings and descriptions come from Illinois State University Bulletin of September, 1946. This volumne of the Bulletin was dedicated to Old Main in the wake of building being condemned earlier that year. The tower, roof, and third floor had been removed in the summer. Debates ensued about what should become of the building, with many townspeople and alumni urging for the landmark's reconstruction.

The basement was mostly above ground and included a full apartment for a janitor as well as rooms for college and model school activities.

The First Floor was 15 feet high and contained a reception room, offices, cloakrooms, and four rooms for the Model School (grammar through highschool), where ISNU students would practice their instruction. Students were to enter the east and west entries (which appear as the upper and lower sides in the image) and visitors entered the south front entrance. Four flights of stone stairs led to the first floor entrances.

The second floor contained the Normal School proper, as envisioned by President Hovey. Ceilings were 16 feet high, although Hovey thought they should have been twice as tall. He boasted that 300 students could gather in the central Assembly Hall and pass to the various classrooms and recitation rooms in less than two minutes.

The third floor of Old Main was by far the most grand with 20-foot ceilings and the Normal Hall, an assembly room that could seat one thousand people. On one side the floor housed the Natural History Museum and the Library; and on the other, an Art Gallery and anteroom for Normal Hall. For a 3D tour of the third floor, see Dave Watt's rendered virtual reconstruction.


Old Main Project
Normal, Il 61790-4660
Phone: (309) 438-8668

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