Williston Hall

Dekalb, Illinois | C.1915

Photo Credit: Northern Illinois University

September of 1895 was an exciting moment for the history of Dekalb, Illinois. With a lead pencil the founders of Northern Illinois University (NIU) would ceremoniously break ground on the new construction for the college. The following month, the first corner stone was officially laid, marking the first moments of the University’s first building, Altgeld Hall.

Following the construction of Altgeld Hall came Williston Hall in 1914. Named for John Williston Cook who was the first president of the University from 1899 to 1919, it was originally utilized as a women’s dormitory.

Williston Cook was a strong advocate for “normal schools” or “teacher’s colleges”. These theories were based on institutions created to train high school graduates to be teachers by educating them in the norms of pedagogy and curriculum. This philosophy was utilized to found NIU in 1895.

As a dormitory, the hall initially contained 40 double occupancy rooms and 47 single rooms that accommodated about 120 women. After World War II, most rooms were converted into double occupancy room, leaving only five single rooms available. This increased the number of female residents, up to 232 per semester.

After 54 years more than 10,000 women have been housed in Hall during their collegiate years. Williston Hall was rebuilt as an office space in 1970. An extensive remodel of the hall took place in 1984 that aimed to maintain many of the original features – including the mailboxes.

Williston Hall now operate as an administrative building for NIU. It currently houses the Office of Admissions, Registration and Records Office, Educational Services and Programs, ACCESS, the CHANCE program and Division of International Programs.

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