Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Old Main

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Institution Name: Elmhurst College
Original/Historic Place Name: Hauptgebäude
Location on Campus: 190 Prospect Ave.
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1878original construction Unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: concrete
Walls: multi-chromatic brick; stone masonry
Roof: slate; copper (flashing details)
ca. 1878-1970spresident's house (called Inspector)
ca. 1878-1970sother (reading rooms)
ca. 1878-1970schapel
ca. 1878-1970sinfirmary
ca. 1878-1970sresidence hall
ca. 1878-present (2007)academic department building (art, education, business, economics, and psychology)
ca. 1878-present (2007)classrooms

Significance: architecture, education, history
Landmark designation:
National RegisterHauptgebaude, (1976)
Narrative: see below
References: see below

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.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Campus Master Plan. [n.d.] Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, IL.

Cutright, Melitta J. An Ever-Widening Circle: The Elmhurst College Years. Elmhurst, IL: Elmhurst College Press, 1995.

Frick, Ivan E. Hauptgebaude [Elmhurst College]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1976.

II. Location of other data:
University: Facilities Management Office
Government Offices

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Last update: November 2006