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

Lincoln Hall

Lincoln Hall was erected in honor of the President who signed the Morrill Land Grant Act into law, laying the foundations of what we know today as the University of Illinois. In 1909, 100 years after his birth, the $250,000 building was approved by the state legislature, and it was ready for occupation by 1911. [1]

The 4-story building was originally 230 feet long with twin 127-foot wings, [2] and was expanded in subsequent 1929 ($500,000; designed by James White) [3] addition, which added the Lincoln Hall Theater. It was originally dedicated "to the study of the humanities: classical and modern languages and literature, history, philosophy, and the social sciences", and the libraries were open to students from 8AM to 10PM each day. [5]

Lincoln Hall was dedicated in the Auditorium at 3 o'clock the afternoon of Wednesday, February 12, 1913. The Reverend Hugh Black, D.D., LL.D. of Union Theological Seminary, gave the memorial address "How Lincoln appeared to Scotchmen", while Bishop McDowell gave the Prayer of Dedication, "Dedication of the building to the study of the Humanities, in memory of Abraham Lincoln, and in the name of the people of Illinois". [6] Judge Simeon W. King, the only surviving pallbearer from Lincoln's funeral, was also present at the ceremony. [7] The building was dedicated with the words: [8]

It must not be forgotten that the facilities thus provided by the state are not primarily or fundamentally for the benefit of the young people who directly take advantage of them, but rather for the ultimate benefit of the great masses of the people who cannot come up to the university and who for their participation in the benefits of these great opportunities provided by the commonwealth, must depend upon the good faith and the loyalty of those privileged to study here, in transmitting the blessings they have enjoyed to the communities whose interests they will serve. Noblesse oblige.

The building, designed by W. Carby's Zimmerman, features terra cotta adornments designed by Karl Schneider, artistic lead of the American Terra Cotta Company. [9] They feature various scenes and quotations from Lincoln's life on its exterior, [10] along with 69 wise old owls. [11] There are ten panels depicting various scenes from Lincoln's life, including Lincoln Splitting Rails on the Banks of the Sangamon, The Down-River Trip and the Slave Auction (1831), The Lincoln-Douglas Debate (1865) [12], and The First Inaugural Address. [13] Scenes date from 1830, 1840, 1849, 1858, 1861, 1863, and 1865. [14] There are also ten panels with quotations from Lincoln's myriad speeches. Each of these is flanked by dual portraits of men who were influential in Lincoln's life: Seward, Chase, Stanton, Welles, Grant, Farragut, Sumner, Adams, Greeley, Turner, Douglas, Trumbull, Yates, Oglesby, Logan, Lovejoy, Davis, Palmer, Koerner and Medill. [15] The quotations themselves are: [16]

  • Slavery is founded in the selfishness of man's nature - opposition to it in his love of justice. - Peoria 16 oct 1854
  • "A house divided against itself cannot stand." I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. - Springfield 16 june 1858
  • Let us have faith that right makes might and in that faith let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it. - cooper institute 27, feb 1860
  • I hold that, in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution, the Union of these States is perpetual. - first inaug address, 4 mar 1861
  • We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. - first inaugural address 4 marh 1861
  • My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or the destroy slavery. - letter to Greeley, 22 aug 1862
  • In giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom to the freehonorable alike in what we give and what we preserve. - message to congress - 1 dec 1862
  • The signs look better. The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea. Thanks to the great Northwest for it.- letter to conkling 26 aug 1864
  • That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth. - Gettysburg, 19 nov 1863
  • With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in. - inaugural address, march 4 1865

Five additional quotes adorn the building's western face, with blank medallion faces: [17]

  • I believe the declaration that all men are created equal is the great fundamental principle upon which our free institutions rest - letter to James N. Brown, Oct. 18, 1858 [18]
  • No man is good enough to govern another man without that others consent - Speech on the Repeal of the Missouri Compromise, October 16, 1854 [19]
  • Free labor insists on universal education - Address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, September 30, 1859 [20]
  • Let every man remember that to violate the law is to trample on the blood of his father and to tear the charter of his own and his children's liberty (Address to Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, January 27, 1838) [21]
  • Let none falter who thinks he is right - speech to subtreasury Dec. 26, 1839 [22]

A brass plaque carrying the text of the Gettysburg Address was originally embedded in the center of the marble floor, [23] but was subsequently removed and mounted on the wall after too many students trod upon it.

The classes of 1918 and 1919 dedicated a memorial courtyard on their 50th anniversary in the interior of Lincoln Hall in honor of those University of Illinois students who died in the First World War. [24]

On October 22, 1979, Lincoln's bust in the foyer was stolen and relocated to a tree stump on the 8th hole of the Florida Avenue University Golf Course [25] A note delivered to the Daily Illini spoke on behalf of the former President, saying "Went out for a breath of fresh air. I'll be back by the end of the week", but a phone call to the police shortly thereafter led to his safe return. [26]

Browse the Digital Library for more materials on Lincoln Hall.

[1] Campus Landmarks Brochure
[2] University of Illinois Archives, Building and Statue Dedication Programs: RS 2/0/808
[3] History of the Growth and Development of the Campus of The University of Illinois - Leon Tilon / Thomas O'Donnell - UI Press 1930 - p 183
[4] Champaign News Gazette May 8, 1943 - main library buildings vertical file
[5] University of Illinois Archives, Building and Statue Dedication Programs: RS 2/0/808
[6] University of Illinois Archives, Building and Statue Dedication Programs: RS 2/0/808
[7] Campus Calendar 2001
[8] University of Illinois Archives, Building and Statue Dedication Programs: RS 2/0/808
[9] Daily Illini Feb 12, 1999
[10] Onsite dedication plaque
[11] Archives Trivia Folder
[12] This was actually the closest of the debates (Archives Trivia Folder)
[13] University of Illinois Archives, Building and Statue Dedication Programs: RS 2/0/808
[14] Personal observation
[15] University of Illinois Archives, Building and Statue Dedication Programs: RS 2/0/808
[16] University of Illinois Archives, Building and Statue Dedication Programs: RS 2/0/808 with locations and dates from Alumni Quarterly of 1912
[17] These appear to be part of the 1929 addition, as they were not listed in the original proceedings
[18] http://www.poemhunter.com/abraham-lincoln/quotations/poet-7085/page-19/
[19] http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=51
[20] http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/fair.htm
[21] http://www.house.gov/judiciary/101370.htm
[22] http://members.tripod.com/~american_almanac/lincoln3.htm
[23] University of Illinois Archives, Building and Statue Dedication Programs: RS 2/0/808
[24] Class Memorials at the University of Illinois by Edith Folta "75
[25] There used to be a 9-hole golf course in what is now an Assembly Hall parking lot
[26] Dec 1979 - Alumni News
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