Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Old Main

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Institution Name: Knox College
Original/Historic Place Name: Old Main
Location on Campus: Cherry St. and South St.
Date(s) of Construction:
1857original construction Ulricson, Charles
Designer: Charles Ulricson (Peoria, IL)
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Gothic revival, Victorian (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, education
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: granite
Walls: brick
ca. 1857chapel
ca. 1857library
ca. 1857other (laboratories)
ca. 1857-present (2006)administration
ca. 1857-present (2006)faculty offices
ca. 1857-present (2006)classrooms

An example of monumental mid 19th century academic Gothic architecture, Old Main has been in continuous use as the central academic and administrative building of the college since 1857. Elaborate geometric patterns and proportions combine with striking vertical visual elements to emphasize the height of the building (the central towers are 66 feet high) on the prairie landscape. Though Old Main's exterior has remained nearly unchanged, it was gutted and renovated in the 1930s prior to its entry in the National Register of Historic Places. It is the last remaining site of the seven Lincoln-Douglas debates held throughout Illinois in the fall of 1858.


Knox College. Memorials in American Colleges. Galesburg, IL: Knox College, [1930?].

Koeper, Frederick. Illinois Architecture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968.

Old Main [Knox College]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1966.

Turner, Paul Venable. Campus: An American Planning Tradition. New York: Architectural History Foundation; Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984.


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Last update: November 2006