The pieces were stored behind the Architecture Building for years, then hauled to the university’s Robert Allerton Park and unloaded about 50 yards from the maintenance shed. Trees and raspberry bushes slowly hid them from view.
In 1994, Professor David Garner heard about them and decided to take a look. A backhoe was used to extract the frieze, bases, column shafts and capitals from the dirt. Garner recalled that his “heart was racing” as the long-forgotten artifacts emerged.
Alumni Alan and Phyllis Welsh Hallene donated money needed to reconstruct the portal on Lincoln Avenue. The “Hallene Gateway,” dedicated in 1998, has become a much-photographed campus landmark.
When I visit it, I feel connected to the original “Illinois Industrial University.” As I walk beneath the same arch that generations of students walked beneath, I become part of the pageant, part of history.
Interestingly enough, an exact duplicate of Main Hall still stands at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. That school bought the building plans in 1873 and its “Main Building” was dedicated in 1875. Restored in 1991, it remains an essential classroom structure … alive and full of dreams.
Danville native Kevin Cullen is a former Commercial-News reporter. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.