Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New blog uncovers Western Illinois’ forgotten history

The Western Illinois University Archives and Special Collections has started a new blog series called “Forgotten Western,” which spotlights lost or relatively unknown pieces of campus history.

The first entry in the series, “Forgotten Western: The Wishing Well,” focuses on a once popular landmark on the WIU campus during the first half of the 20th century.

According to the blog entry, before WIU opened in 1899, a brickyard existed on part of today’s campus site. Owned by Henry and James Chase, the yard was established to provide bricks for the new McDonough County courthouse in Macomb.

Because making bricks requires not only clay, which is abundant in the Macomb area, but water, a large windmill was erected on the site to pump water from the ground.

After WIU was established, the windmill was torn down and the well was covered. The former site, however, was marked by a hand-pump housed in a fairly elaborate brick monument, which stood on the Western campus for the next half-century.

The blog notes that this little, covered structure “was located on the southwest side of what was then the athletic field, to the northwest of Sherman Hall. As the campus grew, new expansion required new buildings.

“By 1954, construction had begun on a new science building designated Tillman Hall. Plans called for the new building’s southwest corner to sit directly over the well. As construction progressed, it was filled in with gravel and erased forever from Western’s footprint.

“The well is located approximately 11.5 feet north from the southwest corner of Tillman Hall (directly under the lower-right corner of the window located in the center of photo below) along the west wall. Although there are no physical traces evident, we can still identify the spot that was so important to so many who call Western, Alma Mater.”

To find this and future “Forgotten Western” blog entries, go to: www.wiu.edu/libweb/blogs/archives.

1 comment:

carolyn graham said...

Hey, Rich, got an email from Melissa telling me you have a new book out! Congrats! Hope all's well with you... look up the Grahams if y'all ever make it the Cali coast! I'm at carolyn@roadmonkey.com or carolyn.graham@parenthood.com.