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Illinois State University
Illinois State University
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Clock Tower

The clocktower served as a symbol of the Old Main building. From the lighting that could be seen for miles to the engineering of the inner workings, the clocktower is a memorable feature of the building. However, like the rest of Old Main, the clocktower was unable to stand the test of time. One night in 1930 the floor in the second story hall dropped three inches, causing the roof to sag and the clocktower to lean over. Funds for repairs were hard to come by during the Great Depression but, in 1932, steel girders were installed from the foundation to the clock tower to prevent the building from collapsing.

ISNU students, many who came from small towns around Illinois, had never seen a building of its grandeur. Hear students’ first impressions of Old Main in the 30s and 40s:

Ruth Ryder talks with her daughter and GA Jessica about seeing Old Main for the first time:

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J. Russell Steele is an alumnus (1946) and emeritus faculty of the Athletics and Communications departments from ISNU/ISU. As a student employee in 1939 he worked as assistant to a janitor at Old Main. In this recording, Steele recalls the internal workings of the clocktower of Old Main including its location atop the third floor of the building and the weekly process of winding the clock. J. Russell Steele’s story is unique because it is the only firsthand account of the clocktower currently held in our oral history collection.

J. Russell Steele recalls the weekly process of winding the Old Main clock:

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Source: ISNU aerial photo, 1938 Index

old main

Source: Old Main, 1938 Index.


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

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