UIHistories Project: A History of the University of Illinois by Kalev Leetaru
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Campbell Hall for Public Telecommunication and Richmond Journalism Teaching Studio and Swanson Center

Since 1922, WILL TV and Radio has called more than 10 buildings home, including "a former classroom, an old bakery, an 80-year-old rooming house, a former grain-inspection station, a mobile home, and even former residential homes". [1] By 1941, the station was "greatly handicapped because of inadequate studio facilities". The Board of Trustees reviewed a number of suggestions for expanding its facilities, including "an addition to the present station and studio building, construction of a new building, remodeling the Arcade Building, and remodeling of the Lower Gymnasium of the Woman's Building". The Trustees instructed the Director of the Physical Plant to "proceed with plans for the location of the Radio Station in the Woman's Building". [2]

In 1951, the University accepted a "high-channel television transmitter" from the General Electric Company as a $90,000 gift. It required the University to expend $9,500 for "repairs, costs of packing and shipping". [3] In 1953, the FCC granted the University a "permit for the construction of an education television station at Urbana-Champaign". [4]

In 1960, the station's transmitter and broadcasting antenna, as well as its primary studio, were all located in Memorial Stadium. On September 25th of that year, the Foundation purchased the old Purity-Sunbeam plant for $30,000 to convert into a new modernized studio space for the station, upgrading it to three studios from the single studio it has previously used in the Stadium. Its offices were in yet another building, at 606 West Green Street. [5]

In 1968, the University investigated the move to color television "in order for the Urbana-Champaign campus to keep pace with developments in the public and educational broadcasting". The acquisition of equipment "capable of producing programs in color" was estimated to cost $240,200, and was important to the University's educational use of the medium for "on-campus instruction (closed circuit) off-campus adult education [and] education of students for professional careers in television". [6]

On July 8, 1996, ground breaking for the Campbell Hall for Public Telecommunication took place, and one day shy of 39 years after purchasing the Sunbeam plant, on September 24, 1999, [7] the new 40,966 square foot [8] facility was dedicated, marking the first time in nearly 80 years that all of the station's operations had been consolidated into a single building. [9] The building's primary benefactors were Robert C. and Alice Curtis Campbell, who gave nearly $5M to fund the new building. MCI Communications Corporation donated the $200,000 broadcast tower and transmission equipment for the new station. [10] The building itself was designed by Voa Associates, Inc, with English Brothers Company handling the general contracting. [11]

Attached to the new building are the Richmond Journalism Teaching Studio and the Swanson Center. The $2M Richmond Studio was funded by Jack C. and Majorie Laird Richmond of Champaign, in honor of his parents, Arthur Dean and Mildred Hummel Richmond. The $300,000 Swanson Center was a gift of Dennis D. and Katharine Wognum Swanson. [12]

One interesting aside about the lobby of the building is the design of its second floor railing. The pattern within the railing is meant to represent a radio wave emanating from an antenna. [13] The pattern is actually continued on a stained glass window in the General Manager's office in the northwest corner of the building. [14]




[1] University of Illinois Archives, Building and Statue Dedication Programs: RS 2/0/808
[2] Board of Trustees Proceedings - August 5, 1941
[3] Board of Trustees Proceedings, June 13, 1951
[4] Board of Trustees Proceedings, November 20, 1953
[5] Courier Septber 26, 1960
[6] Board of Trustees Proceedings, June 19, 1968
[7] http://www.uif.uillinois.edu/public/InvestingIL/issue16/art02.htm
[8] http://www.uif.uillinois.edu/public/InvestingIL/issue16/art02.htm
[9] University of Illinois Archives, Building and Statue Dedication Programs: RS 2/0/808
[10] http://www.uif.uillinois.edu/public/InvestingIL/issue16/art02.htm
[11] Onsite dedication plaque
[12] University of Illinois Archives, Building and Statue Dedication Programs: RS 2/0/808
[13] Second floor receptionist.
[14] Katy Mullally
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