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Busey-Evans Residence Halls

Laura B. Evans laid the cornerstone of what was to become Busey Hall on Saturday October 21, 1916 at 10AM. Originally known simply as the Woman's Residence Hall, this Classical Revival building was the work of James White, and C. L. Gustafson. Its association with Charles Platt led the building to be added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 5th, 2003. The building was also the first University Residence Hall, and President Edmund Janes James spoke to the significance of its construction with "This is distinctly an experiment upon the part of the University". It also addressed an issue which the dean of women, Martha J. Kyle, had raised when she said "many bright girls miss college altogether because their parents cannot afford to send them to the expensive though well-supervised Eastern schools, and the unsuitable living conditions [keep] them from Illinois".

University Architect James White noted that "it [was] not intended to build with the $160,000 a hall which will rival the elaborate dormitories at Michigan, Cornell and at some of the girls schools in the east however it is believed that the Illinois residence hall will be the best for 100 middle western girls that can be built". Yet, President James noted that the building should not be called a dormitory, because it "sounds too much like a ten-cent-a-night hotel".

The three-story building cost $180,247 to construct and measured 167 feet across its colonial front, with twin 101 foot wings. The residence hall had a capacity of 98 women, and was entirely self-contained, with "double and single rooms, a suite for the matron, an emergency hospital, and rooms for servants". Its four floors were joined by two "winding staircases", with "gleaming white woodwork grace[ing] the corridors and rooms" and a "spacious drawing room, complete with fireplace" on the ground floor. There were also full-length mirrors placed throughout hallways and sun porches on the second and third floors. The kitchen and dual dining facilities were located in the basement, along with showers and lockers for non-resident women using the adjoining Women's Athletic Field, which had just recently been moved from its original location immediately south of Lincoln Hall.

Before it could be occupied as the first women's dormitory on campus, however, the necessities of the First World War forced the School of Military Aeronautics to become the inaugural occupants of the new building. Named Barracks Number Two during their tenure, the building served as a military housing unit from November 14, 1917 to November 20, 1918.

When it finally opened as the Woman's Residence Hall in 1919, there were two housemothers, "one in charge of food and housekeeping and the other the 'social director'". Their titles were later formalized into the Food Service Manager and the Head Resident. Mary Latimer was appointed by the Board of Trustees to be the first "social director", but due to the occupation by the School of Military Aeronautics, she never served and Daisy Blaisdell became the first social director in 1919, followed in 1920 by Beulah Gradwahl, who "arrived from New Jersey to manage the Woman's Residence Hall and its physical well-being". The Head Resident enforced a strict 10:30PM curfew for her residents.

The first residents began a number of house traditions, including purchasing an Illio for the house and holding a Senior Breakfast, which "was said to be the first time the full appreciation of friendship was realized". The breakfast was originally held in the spacious Busey Gardens, which ran south of the building, but later moved to the indoor dining room. Daisy Blaisdell left as social director in 1925 and was replaced by a Mrs. MacDonald, who "became ill and left the hall after a few months". From 1928 to 1940 the social director was Ella Boyd, and under her reign, in 1936, one of the Hall's residents, Deloris Thomas, became the first Homecoming Queen of the University.

In 1924-1926, a second dormitory building, called the West Residence Hall, was constructed and connected to the existing building. In 1937, the Board of Trustees passed a resolution to rename the two buildings after Laura Evans and Mary E. Busey.

In 1940 the Hall was again taken over by the military as a barracks for the Navy V-12 group until 1945, when it reopened with Nelle Bireline as the Head Resident. In 1945 the Hall also "became a member of the 'Women's Group System' and absorbed 'counselors' - one for each floor", with the building also reaching capacity at 194 occupants. That year also saw "'Lucy Busey' [become] the symbol of the organization". In 1958 Busey Hall initiated "Little Sis Weekend", where "the girls invite their sisters for a weekend and entertain them with pajama parties and skits".

In 1951, a $15,000 modernization of Busey Hall was authorized, to be followed by a $10,000 modernization of Evans Hall. The contract was awarded to John Felmley Company and was completed by 1953. The modernization work included "installation of stairwell partitions and doors in accordance with fire and safety program most of the room furniture [was] replaced, floors [were] completely covered with asphalt tile, and new wallpaper [was] hung in the corridor areas". It was at this time that the two staircases were enclosed.

In 1958 the governmental structure of the hall changed, with the administrative and judicial branches becoming separate entities, rather than combined in the Executive Council as they had been previously, and the Governing Board was formed. In 1961 the national trend of "Snoot Boots" was born out of Busey Hall by sophomore in education Charlene Levine:

It began when Charlene's roommate tried to teach her how to knit. Charlene knit a small square and put it on her nose. Jokingly, her roommate exclaimed "Snoot Boot!" and the craze began. Since then, ever year at Christmas time the girls knit like mad and sell these "Snoot Boot," giving the money to the leukemia foundation.

Busey Hall has even hosted a wedding reception! Ruth Ann Nielson, who served as Food Manager, held her reception in the Drawing Room.

 Fast Facts about the Busey-Evans Residence Halls 
 Date Built  October 21, 1916 (Cornerstone Laid)
 Full Name Busey-Evans Women's Dormitory
 Previous Names Woman's Residence Hall 
 West Residence Hall
 Full History Busey-Evans Residence Halls History 
 Photo Gallery Busey-Evans Residence Halls Photo Gallery
 On the Map Busey-Evans Residence Halls on the Campus Map 
 Quick Links Campus Housing 

Selected Images of the Busey-Evans Residence Halls
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