UIHistories Project: A History of the University of Illinois by Kalev Leetaru
        B U I L D I N G S

The Prairie is Pushed Back: A Long Heritage

A tale has been told of how a University once sprung forth from the treeless prairie: from its founding days as the Champaign-Urbana Institute, through its agriculturally endowed years as the Illinois Industrial University. Now it is time to tell of its evolution as the University of Illinois to become a world-renowned institution that has ushered in almost 150 years. Rather than tell this tale by recounting the lives of the people involved, or enumerate the myriad pivotal events, the focus shall be on the landscape of the times, told through its buildings and monuments.

The University presently counts almost 200 permanent buildings on its UIUC campus [1] and 937 buildings, structures, and major spaces in its possession from across all of its land holdings throughout the state.[2] Its UIUC campus alone claims a total of 15,801,122 square feet with 9,941,493 of it useable square feet. Almost 15% of those buildings are more than 75 years old. [3]

This paper shall focus on the UIUC campus, attempting to detail its major buildings, as well as some of its more obscure buildings and spaces, and to try and tell some of the story of how those buildings and places came to be.

It is fascinating to look back upon the ceaseless southward expansion of campus. North campus, which was the original campus, and once the "old campus", has become the new campus, while the new campus has become the old. What were once the new buildings on an old campus have now become the old buildings on a new campus, with a few, like Kenny Gym and the Vivarium, the last bastions of the old campus in the midst of the new. In a way, campus has come full-circle, with the old becoming new again, as north campus has been razed and rebuilt, and as always, south campus is gradually being pushed farther south and its northern remnants razed over for other purposes. Our great Land Grant University, founded upon agriculture and wide open fields, has relentlessly pushed its heritage ever-South, covering up the land with mammoth buildings and burying away the "treeless prairie" from whence it sprung.

Complete List of Buildings and Spaces

[1] Historic Preservation Report 1998
[3] Historic Preservation Report 1998
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