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

Woman's Building / Bevier Hall / English Building

Dedicated 2PM Monday, October 16, 1905, the Woman's building shared its dedication with the installation proceedings of President Edmund Janes James. [1] Designed by McKim, Mead, and White, one of the most famous firms in the United States at the time, [2] the building cost $80,000. [3] The red brick and white stone exterior features dormer windows and a central colonnade flanked by twin towers. [4] The towers are topped with low-rising domes with pineapple spires.

The building has undergone numerous renovations and repurposings over the years, including a 1913 [5] addition by W. Carbys Zimmerman [6] for $136,308.27 [7] and a 1924 addition by James M. White for $85,000. [8] The 1913 addition added a three story front measuring 200 feet across with twin 83 foot wings, totaling 43,000 square feet. It was this construction that added the building's distinctive east colonnade, along with twin smaller ones bracing the north and south sides of the inner courtyard. [9]

The building originally served as the women's dormitory and even housed a pool and locker rooms on its lower level and a 92 by 50 foot gymnasium on its second story. [10] Modern students who have grown up with the notion of coed housing would find the social standards of 1905 extremely draconian. It was not until 2 years later, in 1907, that the social rooms of the house were open to casual use on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and Friday and Saturday evenings, and then to women students only.

By 1937 the building was no longer in service as a residence hall. [11] In 1941 the Lower Gymnasium of the building was selected as the new home for the W.I.L.L Radio Station. [12]

By 1942 the School of Physical Education had lost 50% of its facilities due to the transformation of Kenny Gym and Kenny Gym Annex into housing for the Naval Training School for Signalmen and the conversion of the West Hall of the Stadium into classroom space for the Navy's Diesel Engine Operator's School. To give the school more room, the University closed Davenport House as a women's dormitory and "assign[ed] it to the Department of Home Economics for use as a practice apartment and the Child Development Study Program". This freed up a substantial amount of space in the Woman's Building to be used by the Department of Physical Education for Women. The Upper Parlors and study room on the ground floor were remodeled into offices for the Departments of Home Economics and Physical Education for Women. The entire Department of Physical Education for Women was then moved into the Woman's Building into the "space it used prior to the construction of the Women's Gymnasium". [13]

While the Woman's Building became the new home of the Department of Physical Education for Women, the Board had previously considered on April 22, 1942, to allocate use of the building, along with its swimming pool and gym, for the program of Physical Education for Men, to offset the loss of the Men's Old Gym and its swimming pool, and Gym Annex. While this was not approved, on July 28, 1943, the board was forced to reconsider this decision in order to facilitate the newly-established "Army and Navy specialized training programs, which will include instruction in swimming". The University War Committee, in conjunction with the "Director of the School, the Head of the Department of Physical Education for Women, and other staff members concerned" agreed to a plan whereby the pool would be released to the Army and Navy trainees "from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 [p]m. six days a week and the women students will have the use of the pool during the afternoons and evenings". [14]

By 1946 the rest of the building largely housed the home economics department and so on June 27, 1946 the Board of Trustees approved a resolution from the Executive Committee of the College of Agriculture to rename the building Bevier Hall: [15]

As a memorial to the late Isabel Bevier, who was Professor and Head of the Department of Home Economics. Miss Bevier was a member of the faculty from 1901 to 1921, and from 1928 until she retired in 1930. She was a pioneer in the development of home economics, and one of the distinguished University professors in that field

Hence on April 17, 1947 it was renamed Bevier Hall in honor of Isabel Bevier. Bevier believed that "home economics has a chance to teach something of the beauty of life and the unity of life, to teach that there is an art in a well-ordered home and a well-ordered life". [16] However, ten years later the new Bevier Hall had been constructed and the English department had taken over the old building, leading to its renaming as the English Building in 1956. [17]

In 1959, a $4,760 contract was awarded to the Limbach Company of Columbus Ohio to replace the skylight in the main atrium. [18]

In 1977, Governor James Thompson signed Public Act 80-241, establishing the "% for Art" program to "promote and preserve the Arts of Illinois by placing art in locations that are used by and accessible to a great number of people, to enhance the architectural environment while providing an ongoing historical recording of art in Illinois". In 1979 the English building joined the Agriculture Engineering and Veterinary Medicine buildings as the first three sites on the UIUC campus to become a part of the program. [19]

[1] University of Illinois Archives, Building and Statue Dedication Programs: RS 2/0/808
[2] 100 Years of Campus Architecture at the University of Illinois by Allen S. Weller
[3] Sixteen Years at the UI / p79
[4] 100 Years of Campus Architecture at the University of Illinois by Allen S. Weller
[5] History of the Growth and Development of the Campus of The University of Illinois - Leon Tilon / Thomas O'Donnell - UI Press 1930 - p 180
[6] Onsite dedication plaque
[7] Sixteen Years at the UI / p79
[8] History of the Growth and Development of the Campus of The University of Illinois - Leon Tilon / Thomas O'Donnell - UI Press 1930 - p 182
[9] Sixteen Years at UI / p86
[10] Sixteen Years at UI / p86
[11] Campus Map March 1937 does not list it as a Residence Hall, and "Residence Halls for Women at the UI" states that there are only three women's residence halls, Busey, Evans, and Davenport Hall
[12] Board of Trustees Proceedings - August 5, 1941
[13] Board of Trustees Proceedings - July 25, 1942
[14] Board of Trustees Proceedings - July 28, 1943
[15] Board of Trustees Proceedings, June 27, 1946
[16] Unknown newspaper, Wed, April 16, 1947
[17] Board of Trustees Proceedings, May 22, 1956
[18] Board of Trustees Proceedings, April 14, 1959
[19] Illini Week setp 7, 1979
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