Posts Tagged 'education'

Circle Campus (2-22-1965)


The City of Chicago got a full-fledged, four-year, public university today.  The Chicago Circle campus was dedicated. The University of Illinois was founded at Urbana in 1867.  The first Chicago branch opened in 1946 at Navy Pier—“Harvard on the Rocks,” the students called it.  But the pier had limited room.  All undergrads were forced to complete their last two years at the main campus, 130 miles away.

In 1951 State Senator Richard J. Daley sponsored a bill calling for the university to build a four-year facility in Chicago.  The trustees investigated a number of sites.  For awhile it seemed likely that the new school would be built in Garfield Park.

Daley became Mayor of Chicago in 1955.  He wanted a more central location.  Putting the campus at Harrison and Halsted would stabilize the Loop and renew a blighted area.

Except that the people living there didn’t think the neighborhood was blighted.  This was the historic heart of the city’s Italian community.  There were protests, there were lawsuits, there was a bombing.  In the end, Daley got his way.

The neighborhood was bulldozed.  Among the buildings destroyed was the new Holy Guardian Angels Church, barely four years old.  Except for the original mansion, all of the Hull House Settlement was torn down.  Jessie Binford, an 85-year-old social worker who had lived at there since 1905, had to find a new home.

2-22--UIC ribbon.jpg

Now the new campus was ready.  Daley was there, along with Governor Kerner and various dignitaries.  About 5,000 students came out to view the festivities.  When the ceremonial ribbon was cut, the students let loose with three cheers.

The architecture of Circle campus was severely modern.  Some critics thought the school looked like a prison.  Most of the students were just glad to be off the pier.  One 19-year-old gave an enthusiastic endorsement—she compared the classrooms to “rocket ships.”

Forty-five years later, the university is still there.  The campus has spread out, and now the controversial architecture is passed off as “historic.”  Today the school is called the University of Illinois at Chicago.  The name was revised because very few institutions of higher learning are named after expressway interchanges.  That’s probably just as well, since now the school might be known as UIJB—University of Illinois at Jane Byrne.

Richard J. Daley died in 1976 after 21-plus years as mayor.  He always said that the university was his proudest legacy.