University history to be preserved thanks to grant

By Danielle Gaines

The Campus Heritage Grant, recently awarded to the University by the Getty Foundation, aims to preserve campus history through documentation of all campus buildings.

The University is one of only 10 colleges and universities in the United States to receive a 2005 Campus Heritage Grant. The award amount is $175,000 to be used over a two-year period.

“It is a wonderful grant that we are very fortunate to have received,” said John Garner, professor of architecture.

“These are important cultural facilities that have meaning both to present users and those who have been here in the past, so we need to take stock of these resources and make sure that we don’t do anything foolish to cause their loss, ” he said.

Through the grant, a preservation maintenance plan is being developed for historic buildings. An educational campaign about these locations is also in the works.

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Melvyn Skvarla, campus historic preservation officer and author of the grant, said the primary contribution of the grant is the creation of a database on all campus buildings. The Department of Planning and Development will create and maintain the database. It will categorize and prioritize buildings for restoration on campus, outlining when restoration will begin on each. Information such as architectural style, year built, architect’s name, significant features and the dates of additions are also being documented, Skvarla said.

“The database is very important and useful, and it will build upon earlier documentation provided by the campus historic sites committee. The committee no longer exists, which is just one more reason why this work is so important,” said Garner, a former committee member.

In 2007, the department will unveil an educational program on the Internet explaining the restoration database to students, faculty, staff and community.

“Hopefully a graduate student will be used to develop the pedagogical resources to go with the program,” Skvarla said.

“It would be interesting to learn more about the buildings that we take classes in,” said Chao Tantipjitkasem, a senior in LAS. “Our campus has such great history, knowing more about it will increase the pride we have in our university.”

Currently, the University is home to two National Historic Landmarks: the Observatory and Morrow Plots. Additionally, there are nine sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places, although there are approximately 95 other buildings eligible for listing.

“This money is to prioritize restorations needed, although the campus has already stated that Altgeld Hall is number one on the list,” Skvarla said.

Skvarla is also including buildings in the database that are not presently old enough to be eligible for the National Register, like the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts or the Krannert Art Museum.

Money to complete later construction and restoration plans will be supplied by other organizations, Skvarla said.

According to their Web site,, Getty’s Campus Heritage Grant has awarded roughly $7 million to more than 50 colleges and universities to preserve historic buildings, sites and landscapes since 2002.