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.

Privacy, Productivity, and Proximity

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.”

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.

Looking Forward to Collaboration

The staff of the Bastian Family Career Center are anxiously awaiting their move to Alumni Hall. Currently located on the edge of campus in Borzello Hall, their new home will integrate the Bastian Center into the hub of campus life.

“[The move] will open more avenues of communication,” says Director Terrie Saline, “which will allow us to collaborate with other departments and offices on campus.”

The staff is excited that Alumni Hall will be the first stop for prospective students and returning alumni, and are looking forward to the walk-in traffic that will soon fill their office. “The central location on campus will increase use of our services by students,” says Saline. “We are really looking forward to the transformation of Alumni Hall.”