Faculty Research & Creative Activity


The History and Architecture of Old Main

Document Type


Publication Date

September 1999


Castles have been a regular feature of midwestern college campuses since at least 1857 when Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, erected its main building with towers and battlements. Other medieval forms-- more church-like than castle-like-- appeared as early as 1827 at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, and in 1839 at Jubilee College on the Illinois frontier near Peoria.1 The castle that arose on Eastern Illinois State Normal School’s campus one century ago clothed then-modern values in what to us appears to be traditional garb, but was to contemporaries quite current. To its builders and occupants the school’s medieval form represented democratic ideals and sound morals, a fitting edifice for the education of future teachers. Broad cultural currents came together in the collegiate castles of the nineteenth century, including the association of the Gothic with christian morality, the aesthetic appeal of the picturesque, and the political triumph of democracy. We can see all of these elements at work in Eastern’s Old Main.