Time traveling back to 1907’s Illini Hall


Photo courtesy of Student Life and Culture Archives

Archive photo of the construction of recently demolished Illini Hall. A time capsule was found at llini Hall amidst its current destruction this month.

By Aidan Sadovi, Assistant News Editor

Following its demolition, Illini Hall is becoming more of a memory every day.

On Feb. 15, a construction crew stumbled upon a time capsule inside of a cornerstone while demolishing the hall, located on Wright street across from Altgeld Hall. Inscribed on the cornerstone is “AD 1907,” the year Illini Hall, then the University YMCA, was built.

Yearbooks from the era leave no mention of the capsule’s existence. Although not actually connected to the University, the connection between the YMCA association and the student body played an indelible role in the University’s history. Several sections of Illio yearbooks from 1906 to 1908 are dedicated to the topic.

Yet, yearbooks and University archives from the era leave no mention of the capsule’s existence.

The University’s Student Life and Culture Archives holds a trove of documents, letters, pamphlets and photos detailing the YMCA’s time on campus.

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Some of the earlier documentation includes promotional pamphlets and leaflets for the dedication of Illini Hall. 

One section lists facts about Illini Hall: the building was made up of three floors — two with dorms — and a basement, which housed a barber shop, restaurant, lunch room, bowling alley and “smoking room.”

The collection includes a copy of the songs sung at the dedication of the building, including Christian hymns like “Joy to the World,” “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!” and ironically, “How Firm a Foundation.”

The last time a time capsule was uncovered at the University was in 2015, when a capsule from the early 1910s was discovered in the gateway of Lincoln Hall. Inside were business cards, letters and specialty coins of the era.

The latest capsule will remain closed for at least another semester. It will be opened in the fall to commemorate the University YMCA’s 150th birthday celebration.

Although the contents of the capsule will be shrouded in mystery until autumn, at the time of writing there are still small parts of the building still standing.

A week ago, one reddit user posted a photo of an unerased chalkboard still hanging on an undemolished Illini Hall wall in the open air. On it, mathematical theorems and a graph remain untouched from the last time they were taught.

These writings were from approximately February 2020, which is when COVID-19 forced students and professors off of campus. Illini Hall never reopened when in-person classes began in Fall 2021. The writings remained untouched — a mark of the University student experience suspended in history. 


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