Beecher Hall is a building of firsts for Illinois. It was the state's first college campus building, and it housed the original medical school in Illinois. Beecher Hall also represents Illinois College's anti-slavery roots.
Backstory and Context
Plans for the construction of Beecher Hall began in 1829, and it became known as the state’s first college campus building when it was completed in 1830. The building was named to honor Edward Beecher, the first president of Illinois College and an anti-slavery activist. Beecher was a member of a notable abolitionist family, and his sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, penned the popular anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (“Beecher Hall”). Edward Beecher travelled to Jacksonville, Illinois after earning a degree from Yale and leaving a pastoral position at a church in Boston.Beecher and other Illinois College faculty members established an anti-slavery sentiment throughout the college campus, despite the varied beliefs of the Jacksonville community during this time period. In 1837, Edward Beecher assisted Elijah Lovejoy, an abolitionist printer, with the establishment of the Illinois Anti-Slavery Society (Rammelkamp, 109). When Lovejoy was shot and killed by pro-slavery supporters in Alton, Illinois, Illinois College students and faculty upheld their anti-slavery beliefs, even though the college’s “radical” views caused funding and enrollment cuts. Students often expressed their anti-slavery views in the classrooms of Beecher Hall, and some even went as far as to assist slaves on their journeys to freedom. Because of their actions, the National Parks Service recognized Beecher Hall as an official Underground Railroad site (“Beecher Hall”).
"Aboard the Underground Railroad: Beecher Hall.” National Parks Service U.S. Department of The Interior, Accessed October 1, 2017.https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/underground/Beecher_hall.html.
"About Us - Firsts in Illinois," http://www.ic.edu/default.aspx?RelID=607297&issearch=beecher%20hall#item607763. Retrieved 8-12-15. Robert Kren. "Beecher Hall," National Register of Historic Places. 4-8-74.
Jenny Barker-Devine, "Illinois College Ghost Stories," IC Time Capsule, October 21, 2013, http://ictimecapsule.blogspot.com/2013/10/illinois-college-ghost-stories.html.
Rammelkamp, Charles H. Illinois College: A Centennial History, 1829-1929. Yale University Press, 1928.
Taylor, Troy and L.T. Horton. Haunted Jacksonville. Decatur: Whitechapel Press, 2014.