Anyone who has ever raised funds knows that every little bit helps. Documents like these that trace the process of fundraising for the original construction of Alumni Hall take that idea to a new level, with little pledges here and there, like this $5 one. We hope Lizzie Freer paid on time! Otherwise, her pledge is 121 years overdue.
Currently housed on the third floor of Old Main, the move to Alumni Hall will allow the staff of the Lincoln Studies Center a greater opportunity to fully engage with the Knox community.
Their space in Alumni Hall will be larger than their current home in Old Main and will provide more space for research materials and equipment and a better ability to accommodate visitors.
“We are grateful for these improvements,” says Douglas Wilson, co-director of the center. “We look forward to being part of the mix in the newly renovated Alumni Hall.”
The above photo is a shot of a class taught by Professor Vasili “Bill” Fiedorow in Alumni Hall. Fiedorow taught Russian and French at Knox for more than 30 years, from 1972 until his retirement in 2005. Fiedorow passed away in September 2013.
Around the time he started teaching at Knox was when the Modern Languages department was located in Alumni Hall. It remained there until the building’s closing, when it then moved to George Davis Hall.
We don’t have a date for this photograph, but judging from the hair styles on these modern languages students, can we agree that it seems safe to place it somewhere in the late 1970s or early 1980s?
One of the most notorious uses of the basement was for a firing range. As students saw on our tour of the basement, there are still bullet holes that can be seen in the walls where the targets were placed. The rifle range is not the only part of Alumni Hall’s military history, though. Alumni Hall has served the campus during both World Wars as an important resource for soldiers.
From 1918 to 1919, during the first World War, the east wing was designated as the YMCA “Hut” under the direction of two secretaries appointed by the War Department. Classrooms that formerly served the Philosophy and Economics departments were transformed into lecture rooms for the 250-soldier unit at Knox. The 1920 Gale states that the Gale offices were turned into a canteen. The Hut served the campus for three months, and was especially useful as a clinic when the 1918 influenza pandemic hit campus. The Gale also recalls that a lot of entertainment took place at the Hut for soldiers: “Stunts were put on at the Hut at the regular times by men of the unit; boxing matches and sings were held; “World Forum” lectures were arranged for every Thursday night. The Hut was the best place at Knox for men of the unit to feel the Knox spirit, and the college atmosphere as it should be.”
In 1943, during World War II, the Headquarters of the Air Force Training Detachment were housed in Alumni Hall. College campuses were utilized for the recruitment and training of soldiers. In 1944, the Army Specialized Training Unit was also housed in Alumni Hall.
Alumni Hall was also the home of Knox’s ROTC program until it was discontinued in 1990.
Much of this blog has been about current construction updates. Had it existed during the original construction of the building, this is what readers likely would’ve seen. This is a photo of the original construction of Alumni Hall, looking towards the south side. And to give you a sense of where this was taken, it appears that the photographer stood where Seymour Hall is now located.
For the Office of Financial Aid, privacy is a key concern. In their current location on the second floor of Center for Fine Arts, their office is separated by cubicles. When they look toward their move to Alumni Hall, privacy for students and their families during visits will be the biggest improvement.
“The presence of walls and doors will help cut down on distractions and noise for the staff,” says Director of Financial Aid Ann Brill. “We are hopeful this will improve productivity.”
The staff is also excited to transition to a more central area of campus. “We’re excited to be part of a new campus hub full of life and constant activity,” says Brill. “Additionally, we will be closer in proximity to the other administrative offices on campus, which will serve our students better.”
In 1977, it was apparent action needed to be taken regarding the ailing Alumni Hall. Its closing seemed imminent, and one of the main controversies about that decision was the elimination of the campus chapel. The interdenominational chapel was located in the upper west wing of Alumni Hall. It held some formal services and group meetings, but was also open as an area for personal religious practice. The chapel was opened in 1972 as the first religious space on campus since services were discontinued at Beecher Chapel in the 1950’s.
Students were worried about the closing of Alumni Hall because there would be nowhere to meet for prayer, as the chapel was the only designated religious space on campus. The wider community became involved in the discussion about the chapel. The Galesburg Post issued an editorial in November 1977, stating that “The Galesburg Post has been urging Knox College to use the central interior of Alumni Hall for a chapel available to all faiths, and for student assemblies, with other space in the 1890 building made available for rental to community organizations.”
The Galesburg Post also reported how members of the Newman Club, the Catholic group on campus, were “forced to meet in the Gizmo as nickels and dimes clinked in the machines as they held their mass.”
The chapel was closed with the rest of the building by 1980, and although community groups feared a religious presence might disappear from the College, there are still faith groups active on the campus today.