Altgeld Hall
Altgeld Hall, built in 1897 on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus, United States, is home to the Department of Mathematics and the Mathematics Library. Altgeld Hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. A feature of Altgeld Hall is the University Chime which marks the hours, half hours, and quarter hours. The bell tower plays a ten minute concert every school day at 12:50 PM.


Planning for the building started in 1892. Governor John Peter Altgeld and University President Andrew Sloan Draper were involved in the design of the building. Initially, the trustees announced a design contest that would award $1200 to the best design. The trustees awarded the prize to Edward G. Bolles, a young man with no experience in building design, but after the building committee met with the young man, they decided to reject the Bolles entry and all the other entries submitted. Based on a suggestion made by Governor Altgeld, the building committee offered the commission to Daniel Burnham fresh from his success as the organizing architect of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Artistic conflicts between Burnham and the Governor soon became clear, and the relationship was severed. After two years of looking for an acceptable design, the building committee called upon the university's own architecture department. On February 4, 1896, Professors Nathan Ricker and James McLaren White completed the design plans that included construction costs in less than a month.

Construction started on June 10, 1896, only four months after the initial building design was submitted by Ricker and White. The cornerstone, which included a time capsule, was set on September 11, 1896. Ricker and White supervised the construction of the building which was completed on December 1, 1897.

The exterior features the only gargoyle on campus while the interior features four murals painted around the domed ceiling of what is now the Mathematics Library. Newton Alonzo Wells painted the murals at the recommendation of the architects. The four murals were dedicated to the four colleges at the University in 1897. The south mural is "The Sacred Wood of the Muses" dedicated to the College of Literature and Arts. The north mural is "Arcadia" dedicated to the College of Agriculture. The west mural is "The Laboratory of Minerva" dedicated to the College of Science. The east mural is "The Forge of Vulcan" dedicated to the College of Engineering.

At dedication on June 8, 1897, the building was designed as the University Library. In 1927, the School of Law moved in and occupied the building until 1955 (an inscription at the north entrance of the building still says Law Building). Since 1955 the Department of Mathematics and the Mathematics Library have occupied the building . The building's name was officially named Altgeld Hall after Governor John Peter Altgeld in 1941.

Bell Tower
The University Chime was installed in the Altgeld Hall tower in 1920. The University Chime consists of fifteen bells, weighing a total of seven and a half tons, cast by McShane Bell Foundry in Maryland. The University Chime was a gift from the graduating classes of 1914 and 1921 and the United States School of Military Aeronautics. The three largest bells are dedicated to Dr. Edmund Janes James, a past university president, the men trained in the United States School of Military Aeronautics, and the classes of 1914-1921. The Seth Thomas clock mechanism was installed in 1922 that allows the chime to play the Westminster chime to mark the hours and the quarters.

Bell Concerts
Altgeld Tower bell concerts are performed weekdays from 12:50 to 1:00 PM while school is in session. Concerts are performed during special occasions, such as Homecoming Weekend, the University of Illinois Founders Day, and Commencement evening. The concerts have been a tradition since 1920 when the University Chime was installed. The bells are controlled by a playing clavier with wooden levers, which looks like a large keyboard. The levers are connected to the clapper inside the bell by a steel wire. The University Chime has an almost complete musical scale which ranges from lower D to upper G with the exception of lower D sharp and lower and upper F natural. For this reason, some tunes must be altered slightly by the Chimemaster.

Photographs of Altgeld Hall can be found at the University of Illinois library webpage.


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