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Dedicated on October 31, 1878, the Old Main building on the Elmhurst College campus serves as a visual testament to the works of the campus's founding fathers. The red and yellow brick building features a square clock tower adorned with the crenellations of a castle or fortress, and as one member of the College's original building committee noted in 1878, it was topped with a belfry "pointing toward heaven with a bell to summon students to study, work, and pray." With an original cost of $24,000, the building was remodeled after a 1920 fire at a cost of $55,000, and again in 1976 and 1995 for $1 million and $600,000 respectively. In the 1980s the building also underwent an exterior rehabilitation, which included the addition of a new roof and an extensive exterior cleaning. The only building in its home city of Elmhurst listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Old Main stands as a reminder to the community of the work done on Elmhurst's campus.
Old Main has played a significant role in the development of the Elmhurst College campus. Originally, the building was designed with classrooms on the first floor; bedrooms, study rooms, a chapel, and an apartment for the "Inspector" (now President) on the second floor; and sick rooms on the top floor. The basement contained a reading room, laboratory, and washrooms (the only running water in the building). As the campus evolved, the use of Old Main continuously changed to fit campus needs. At various times, Old Main has even housed the College's library and bookstore. Since its renovation in the 1970s, Old Main has primarily been used as an academic classroom building. Currently, the art, education, business, economics, and psychology departments hold classes in the building; however, the college will dedicate a new academic building in 2004, and Old Main will again welcome new tenants to its unique, historic hallways.