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Beecher Hall is the cradle of higher education in Illinois and was the site of the first class meeting on January 4, 1830. Work on the south half of the building began in 1829, and the north half was completed in 1830. The first medical school in Illinois was established on the site in 1843. The two-story structure is named for Edward Beecher, the first president of Illinois College and an older brother of acclaimed author Harriet Beecher Stowe. Explorer John Wesley Powell resided and studied in Beecher Hall, and William Jennings Bryan, the great orator and three-time presidential candidate, honed his public speaking skills here as a student and member of Sigma Pi Literary Society. Mark Twain, Horace Greeley, Frederick Douglass, Daniel Webster, and Stephen A. Douglas are among the notable figures who were guests of the Sigma Pi and Phi Alpha literary societies, which continue to meet regularly in Beecher Hall. The U.S. Postal Service called attention to the building's history with a 1993 postal card that marked the 150th anniversary of the founding of the state's first medical school.
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