Things we love about Illinois: The Quad

One of our favorite things about our favorite institution of higher education.

Main Quad facing Foellinger Auditorium at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (Photo by Jason Lindsey/UI Archives)
One of our favorite things about our favorite institution of higher education.

Globally situated at 40º 06’ 36.88” N 88º 13’38.13”W, the Quad’s green rectangle is of seeming insignificance amid the verdant Google Earth checkerboard of east central Illinois. It may be a mere 203’ by 940’, but this iconic space is enormous in campus life at UI, a kind of backyard for Alma where students play Frisbee, lounge, play music, solicit contributions and—most of all—walk and bike en route to classes and activities. At five minutes to the hour—especially at the busy beginnings of fall and spring semester—the mass of students moving through the Quad throbs like a new life form, its weight seeming to tax the brick sidewalks that angularly bisect its trim, wide lawns. At such moments, the Quad and its occupants form the visibly beating heart of the University of Illinois.

Its origins lie with a structure long since demolished—the majestic University Hall, constructed in the 1870s, where Illini Union now stands. In 1891, the Natural Building
followed, with remaining buildings shaping the Quad completed by 1917.

Since then, its contributions to campus life have varied. In the 1930s, grassed sections were off limits. For years, bicycling was restricted to newspaper carriers, and then only before 8 a.m. Later, the Quad emerged as a place for war protests, movie nights and pep rallies. Today, it occupies a place in cyberspace, a Quad Cam keeping watch over comings and goings.

Did we miss one? For more in this series, search “Things we love about Illinois.”