One of the greatest needs of the American people to-day[sic] is trained leaders 'in the world of practical affairs.' The business interests of the country involved in banking, insurance, railroading, manufacturing, merchandising can be safely entrusted in the long run only to the liberally and technical educated man. The universities should do their part in helping to provide adequate training for the youths of the nation who wish to enter these pursuits. The University of Illinois is trying to meet this need in the courses which [sic] will be given in the Commerce building, whose corner stone we lay to-day.
It was with the speech above that President Edmund Janes James laid the cornerstone of the new Commerce Building on May 21, 1911. Two years later, on April 17, 1913, the building was dedicated and the Conference on Commercial Education and Business Progress was held in the new quarters of the School of Business.
The building was designed to bridge north and south architectural styles, with a "buff Bedford stone" first floor exterior and "brick with carved stone trimmings and cornice" finish on its second and third floor exteriors. Perhaps the only example of planned obsolesce on campus, the building was designed with exterior adornments only on its east side, since an addition was planned to begin a little more than a year after the building's inauguration. In a sign of the importance of the locomotive sciences to commerce in the 1900's, the second floor housed the offices of Railway Administration and Commerce. The second floor also contained a 100-person lecture hall, two classrooms, a statistics laboratory "equipped with the machines, apparatus, and books necessary for the most advanced statistical investigation along all lines", and a commerce laboratory with an "extensive collection of commercial products, maps, [and] charts". The third floor was dedicated to the Accountancy Department, with an 80 by 30 foot accountancy laboratory, housing student drafting tables, that was the largest room in the building. Electronic adding machines were just beginning to enter the mainstream, as the dedication proceedings for the building noted that the third floor machine room "eventually will be more fully equipped with various machines used in business and counting offices; many of these machines are electrically operated and the necessary connections have been installed in the room".
On Illinois Day, December 3, 1914, little more than a year after its completion, the cornerstone for the addition to the Commerce Building was laid. The advent of World War I and its demand for students educated in foreign commerce had increased enrollment by 54% from 1913. As a harbinger to its later days as the Administration Building, the addition was also to house the University Administrative offices, allowing them to move out of their Natural History Building quarters. President Edmund Janes James moved to his new office in the Admin wing from the Natural History Building in 1915. Along with the Office of the President, the building also housed the "rooms of the Board of Trustees and the offices of the Registrar, the Comptroller, the Secretary, the Supervising Architect, the Dean of Men, the High School Visitor, the Adviser to Foreign Students, the Alumni Association, the University Press, and the Information and Stenographic Bureau".
The 1914 addition left the building in the shape of an "I", with the central lecture hall as the single interior connecting hall. In 1925, when work on the new Commerce Building was completed, the College of Commerce and Business Administration vacated the building and the University Administration offices filled most of the remainder of the building, sharing it with the College of Education. In 1964 a $2.8M four-story addition was added to the southern side, leaving the building in its present state. The class of 1967 offered as their class gift two bronze plaques decorating the west plaza, one inscribed with the centennial symbol and the other dedicating it.
After changing University regulations regarding the naming of campus buildings after living persons who were not private donors, the Board of Trustees voted on March 12, 1987, to rename the building in honor of David Dodds Henry. The Administration Building became the David Dodds Henry Administration Building at 9:30 on the morning of Saturday, October 31, 1987.
|Selected Images of the Henry Administration|
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