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.
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.
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.
Lance Factor, George Appleton Lawrence Distinguished Service Professor of Philosophy, discusses the significance of literary societies in the building of Alumni Hall.
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.
Starting in 1949, the Knox College Bookstore called the basement of Alumni Hall home. It was housed in the lowest level of the east wing next to the Hearth, later called the Gizmo, until the mid-1960′s. This shop for students was one of the many uses of the versatile basement space through the years.
As the cold continues in Galesburg, this type of springtime fun seems harder and harder to imagine. This is a shot of students enjoying playing Frisbee on the south lawn of Alumni Hall in 1965. This view seems more familiar to us in February, though.
While current students find their mail in the lower level of Seymour Union, it wasn’t always that way. The mail room used to call the basement of Alumni Hall home, just like the Gizmo.
We love hearing from alumni who remember Alumni Hall during its years of use as we explore its past. Dorothy Wharton ’55 has been an active commenter on the blog, sharing her memories with us, and this little bit she recalled inspired us to dig up this photo from the Archives: “We got our mail, in little cubbies, down there too, so there it was quite a mob scene at times.” Looks like the photographer caught the basement mail room in a calmer period here. Thanks for your comment, Dorothy!
If you are an alumnus with a story about Alumni Hall, check out our Share Your Memories page. We would love to hear from you!
Stay tuned for more on the many uses of the basement through the years: Alumni Hall’s lower level was home to much more than just the Gizmo and mail room.