Lincoln Hall Renovation Gets Green Light
State’s capital improvements bill includes $57.3 million to restore campus landmark.
The long-awaited restoration of Lincoln Hall finally received the go-ahead as Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a statewide capital construction bill that included funding for the classroom building’s first renovation in 80 years.
The $57.3 million state appropriation along with $8.3 million from the University will pay for a near-complete restoration of Lincoln Hall’s interior while maintaining its most architecturally and historically significant features. Among the items being preserved are the theater, east foyer, some detailing in halls and classrooms, and the exterior.
The rest of the 98-year-old building’s insides will be largely gutted and transformed into an environmentally friendly, 21st-century teaching space. That means new wiring for “smart” technology in classrooms and mechanical and electrical upgrades to include air conditioning and new plumbing and safety standards. Rooms and spaces will be rearranged, and a unique area that was once a smoking lounge under Lincoln Hall theater will be converted into a café so that students and staff will have an informal gathering space.
Workers will restore the marble foyer and terra cotta panels on the building’s exterior that depict Abraham Lincoln’s life and quotations, and the theater will be modified to meet accessibility standards. The theater also will receive wider seats and new paint and plaster to match the original colors from 1930. The stage curtain will be replaced.
The renovation is expected to take three years. When done, it will be a point of pride for the college and the campus, says LAS Dean Ruth Watkins.
“We are excited because it will be both forward-looking and respectful of our architectural heritage. Most importantly, Lincoln Hall will again be a first-rate learning environment, which is how it was originally conceived.”
The renovation will be Lincoln Hall’s first since 1929. Built in 1911, the structure anchoring the southwest corner of the Quad was less than half of its current size until the 1929 renovation extended the building west to Wright Street and added the theater. Over the years it has evolved into the second-most used classroom building on campus, with 350 class sections held there each semester. Virtually every U of I student takes a class in Lincoln Hall before graduation.
During the past year, however, classes have been conducted elsewhere in anticipation of the renovation project. Over the summer, the approximately 200 faculty and staff with offices in the building were relocated elsewhere on campus in anticipation of the work, which will begin later this fall.
By Dave Evensen