Collection of ground breaking shovels
Collection of ground breaking shovels

The Western Illinois Museum has a collection of 21 groundbreaking shovels that document the building of what is known today as Western Illinois University.  In 1899, with the groundbreaking for Sherman Hall, the Western Illinois State Normal School began and its impact continues to be seen in the region.  Offering educational and professional opportunities for those who live in the area, it also continues to bring new people to the community. These common shovels are significant for the story they tell.  Below are a few of those stories.  A selection of the shovels and more information about the buildings are on view at the museum through January 3, 2015.

Bayliss Hall
Bayliss Hall was built in May, 1965 as student housing. The building was named after Alfred E. Bayliss who was the second president of Western Illinois State Normal School.

Bayliss was born in England in 1847 and immigrated to American in 1853 with his parents. He was educated at Hillsdale Academy in Michigan, and fought in the Civil War. After the war he studied at Hillsdale College, receiving a BA in 1870 and an MA in 1874.

Bayliss was superintendent of schools in LaGrange, Indiana and in Sterling, Illinois.  In 1906, he was appointed president of Western Illinois State Normal School where he worked to establish a four-year high school. He expanded the school’s programs to include: agriculture, domestic science and printing. He also took on beautification projects like building Lake Ruth.

In the summer of 1911, Bayliss was thrown from his horse and later died from his injuries. He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

Currens Hall
Currens Hall was built in September of 1969 for the Physical Science Department. The building was named for Dr. Fredrick Currens who was part of Western Illinois University for 38 years.

Currens was born in Carthage, Illinois and later his family moved to Peabody, Kansas. In 1904 he received a BA, and in 1907, a MA from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He taught science in Nebraska and Iowa before coming to Western Illinois State Normal School.  In 1921 Currens became the second faculty member to earn a Doctorate.

Hainline Theater
The groundbreaking shovel in the collection of the museum is from the 1987 renovation of Browne Hall Theater, which then became the Hainline Theater. The building was named after Jesse and Andrew (Les) Hainline of Macomb, Illinois.  Andrew was a state’s attorney and owner of the Macomb Journal.  He also owned a chain of movie theaters in the region.  Both he and his wife were avid supporters of the performing arts. The 1987 renovation expanded the theater, adding a bigger lobby, concession stands, new seats, large dressing rooms, a scene shop and a green room. The building was dedicated on June 25, 1987.

Lincoln and Washington Halls
Lincoln and Washington Halls were built in 1963 to house students.  In the 1960s, the number students attending Western Illinois University increased and additional housing was needed.  Each building accommodated 1,014 students.  Lincoln provides housing for men and Washington for women.

Sherman Hall
The Sherman Hall groundbreaking was held in November of 1899.  It was the first building of Western Illinois State Normal School and it housed classrooms, the library and an auditorium.  Today it is the Administration Building for the university.

This building is the icon of Western Illinois University. The school’s initial mission was unique compared to other normal schools of the time because it was used to train teachers for country and village schools. The school improved educational opportunities for the region’s children, as well as for those who wanted to pursue the teaching profession, including women. When the building was first opened for classes in 1902 only the first floor of the building was complete.

Waggoner Hall
Waggoner Hall was built in 1968 and housed the Life Sciences.  It is currently used by the Biological Sciences and Psychology Departments.  Waggoner Hall has four floors with labs, classrooms and auditorium lecture rooms for each department.

The building is named after Dr. Harry Waggoner who was the head of the Biology Department from 1917 until 1945, when he retired. Dr. Waggoner was educated in a country school in Godfrey, Illinois before attending the Western Illinois State Normal School in 1902. He received his PhD from University of Illinois after doing three years of research on plant physiology.  Waggoner served as principal of both grade and high schools before serving as a department chair at WIU.  Waggoner was instrumental in the wide variety of shrubs and trees that are planted around campus.

Multipurpose Building
The Multipurpose Building was built in 1964 as a field house to be used for sporting events, as well as ceremonies, concerts, and theater events.  The original building could seat up to 9,000 people. It also housed an eighth of a mile track, a swimming pool, and a training room.  The facility also included classrooms and the Physical Education Department.   It became known as Western Hall, a name it is still known by today.  To celebrate the university’s centennial in 1999, the building was renovated to include an expanded recreation center for students.

Thompson Hall
Thompson Hall was built in 1968 as student housing. This was the first hall to have a 24 hour co-ed lounge. It housed 1234 men and women on 19 floors in separate wings.

The building is named after Katharine Thompson, who was employed as an assistant teacher in 1911. She was a native of Apple River, Illinois, and received a diploma from Northern Illinois Normal School in the spring of 1912. In 1922 she received her B.A. from Western Illinois State Normal School. In the same year Thompson began teaching at what was known as the Training School.  She would go on to become the upper grade principal, a position she held until she retired in 1943.

In addition to naming a building in her honor, WIU established a scholarship for junior and senior elementary education majors.