Sandburg's Hometown

May 26, 2014

Old Main, Knox College

Old Main

by Barbara Schock

Old Main had been standing for just over twenty years by the time Carl Sandburg was born in 1878.

The Knox College Board of Trustees celebrated the completion of Main College, as it was then called, on July 7, 1857. A public dinner was held to honor the opening of the large new building.
When the citizens of Galesburg climbed to the upper floor of the building, they could look out over the town and marvel at its progress. There was no Knox County Courthouse in College Park.

The women’s hall across the park had been built at the same time. It was later named Whiting Hall. Erecting a building for female students was a clear indication that Knox would be a co-educational institution. Within a few years the young women were taking classes in the Main College building.

The Knox trustees had spent a quarter of the College’s endowment of $400,000 to add the facilities. President Jonathan Blanchard first hired a Chicago architectural firm, Olmstead & Nicholson to design a main building for the campus. Their architectural suggestions were too extravagant so the firm was fired.

A Peoria architect by the name of Charles Ulricson was then hired and he quickly produced drawings with satisfied Blanchard.

Ulricson came to America in 1835 from Sweden. It is believed he found a job as a draftsman in the New York firm of Town and Davis. They were the leading architects in the country during the period before the Civil War.

Ulricson was given free use of the company library. He also gained experience in engineering as well as the architectural revival of Greek, Gothic and Tuscan styles. He was also a practicing Mason and believed in the use of esoteric mathematics for design characteristics of buildings.

The Knox trustees had expected a plain building. They received matching wings, towers, curved windows and other forms of decoration on the exterior. On the interior, they received Masonic calculations in the measurement and decoration of the building.

The brick used for the construction of the edifice was a bright shade of red, the window and door surrounds were painted white and the foundation was constructed of blue sandstone from Aurora, Illinois.

The following year Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas debated on a platform erected on the east side of Main College. That series of debates across the state for the senatorial campaign was of historical and political importance. Knox College’s building is now listed on the National List of Historic Places.

Old Main was a one-of-a-kind building. It still is.

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
May 26, 2014 Old Main
May 19, 2014 Rhythms of the Railroad
May 12, 2014 Spring Tonic
May 5, 2014 The Milkmen
April 28, 2014 Gray's "Elegy..."
April 21, 2014 Off to War
April 14, 2014 Swedish Easter
April 7, 2014 A Father's Face
March 31, 2014 Secret Societies
March 24, 2014 George A. Murdock, Merchant
March 10, 2014 Trade Cards
March 3, 2014 The Demorest Medal
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014  The Colonel
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
January 13, 2014  A Small Abode
January 6, 2014 Birth of a Poet
December 30, 2013 Christmas 1880
December 23, 2013 Swedish Christmas
December 16, 2013 The Reporter Sees Santa
December 9, 2013 The Coming of Christmas
December 2, 2013 The Fire Boys Talk
November 25, 2013 Galesburg Will Feast on Turkeys and Cranberries - Thanksgiving 1893
November 18, 2013  Mary Sandburg Johnson
November 11, 2013 Carl Sandburg's Bicycle
November 4, 2013  Lace Curtains 
October 28, 2013 The Front Room
October 21, 2013 A Warm Breakfast
October 14, 2013 Marion D. Shutter
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity