Army Activities

Shooting Range in Alumni Hall Basement
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.

Under Construction: 1890 Edition

South Side of Alumni Hall Under Construction circa 1890

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.

Alumni Hall’s Campus Chapel

Alumni Hall Chapel

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.

The Hearth

The Original Gizmo in the Basement of Alumni Hall

One of the most memorable uses of the basement of Alumni Hall was as the student snack bar. Originally called The Hearth, one of its namesake fireplaces is pictured at the rear of this photo. Students, like this group from the mid 1950′s, would gather to study and enjoy snacks in the basement around the hearth. At the time of our tour for students, the pictured hearth was still standing in the basement space of Alumni Hall.

Springtime Stroll

Students Walking Outside South Side of Alumni Hall After 1960

As we start to experience warmer April days, here’s a hopeful shot of two classmates walking on the south side of Alumni Hall near the Lombard bell during good weather. This shot is dated around 1960, which is easy to see given the outfits and hair worn by these students.

Basement Offices in Alumni Hall

Office of Admission in Alumni Hall Basement

The basement of Alumni Hall held auxiliary offices since 1950, but it was in 1977 that the Offices of Alumni Affairs, Development and Public Affairs were housed permanently in the basement. This is an example of what those offices looked like. Astute viewers will notice in the left side of this image that the brick structure is the old fireplace from when the space served as The Hearth. The transformed Alumni Hall will be home to many administrative offices once construction is completed.