By 1907, the University was celebrating its fortieth birthday and the changes and new challenges that the nearly a half century of growth had brought with it. Chief among those challenges was the need for a new assembly hall where the entire student body could congregate. The new Auditorium was to be completed later that year, with 2,500 seats, capable of holding the entire student body at once.
On Monday night, November 4, 1907, at 8:15PM, the new Auditorium was dedicated in honor of Edward MacDowell, the first American composer to achieve international fame. The opening nights performances were marred, however, by a terrible echo, which later became a life-sized experiment for the study of acoustics. The new Auditorium was designed by Bostonian architect Clarence H. Blackall, a University of Illinois graduate of 1877, but funding shortages caused the plans to be scaled back.
By the early 1970's, the Auditorium was showing signs of significant deterioration, and campus planners recommended that it be razed. However, in 1983 Helene Foellinger donated the funding necessary to finally complete the Auditorium to Blackall's original designs and modernize it. The sheet metal roof was replaced with a copper one, and the wings and backstage areas were added. One of the few deviations from the original plan was the installation of a 4 ½ foot tall pineapple at the peak of the roof in place of the glass oculus originally intended.
Today the Foellinger Auditorium is ablaze in the evenings with 396 lights on its roof arranged in two rings, 72 on the top and 144 on the bottom, with 12 interconnecting spokes of 15 lights each. Each 25-watt bulb costs around 37 cents and has a life of around 1000 hours. The bulbs are encased in glass housings to partially protect them from the elements, but these housings often collect water, making it more difficult to replace the bulbs.
The vestibule is a memorial to President Edmund Janes Jame's wife and in the center of its northern face hangs a bronze tablet commemorating her. Its final line, "her children will rise up and call her blessed", recalls Proverbs 31-28 stamped on Lorado Taft's Alma Mater statue, which resided behind the Auditorium for many years, spotlights casting twin shadows of labor and learning onto its southern wall at night.
|Selected Images of the Foellinger Auditorium|
Below is a selection of images of the Foellinger Auditorium. These images may be viewed for personal use only and may NOT be republished in any form. To use one of these images in a U of I presentation or Web or print publication, please click on the "download" link beneath each image to download the image free of charge.|