1203 W. Green St., Wesley Foundation

Project Overview

Architect: Holabird and Roche         Year Built: 1921       Architectural Style: Late Gothic Revival


Architectural Description

The 1921 Late Gothic Revival Social Center Building is situated on the southeast corner of the Goodwin Street and Green Street intersection. The style is fully developed on the building, highly ornamented of the Late Gothic Revival style. This is in contrast to its modern church addition to the west, which is a stylized interpretation of the Gothic Revival Style. The sleek lines of the Church blend effortlessly through the Education Wing addition and into the highstyle Foundation Building. The Foundation Building is intricately detailed with stone carvings on every façade and all corners are articulated with quoins. The Foundation Building’s south side, oriented to a parking lot, was intentioned to be oriented to a complex of education and dormitory buildings to the south that never materialized. It possesses the same attention to detail as the other façades despite its parking lot orientation.
The Foundation Social Center Building is constructed of Indiana limestone with an original steeply-pitched slate gabled roof. The original main entrance is on the north façade on Green Street, recessed in a symmetrical courtyard. The courtyard is set back significantly from the street, with a path leading from the sidewalk to the main entry. The building forms a U-shape with the northern edge of the courtyard delineated by a low balustrade. The balustrade opens at the central axis framed by two classically inspired piers. Each pier is capped by a cornice with dentils supported by scroll consoles. Atop each pier is a pineapple, a traditional welcoming symbol. Attached to each pier, facing the building, are ornate lanterns.

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Historical Description

The University of Illinois as a state school, like other land grant universities, kept religion separate from education. No religion courses were offered, although chapel attendance was required until 1894 when it became an object of ridicule. Despite the University’s stance of keeping the separation of church and state, most students and faculty were churchgoers. The 1898 University population was quite small, only 1,046 students and 125 faculty members. An 1898 survey showed 20% of faculty were Methodists (third highest representation after Congregationalists and Presbyterians), and 27% of students were Methodists, the most of any student denomination. The interdenominational YMCA (founded in 1873) and YWCA (founded in 1884) were the only two religious centers on campus at the turn of the century. Around that time was when denominational student centers emerged on campus, and the Methodist Church was one of the leaders.

The design of the 1203 W. Green was inspired by Christ Church College where John Wesley was educated. The architect, John Root explained the design in these words: "In designing the Social Center building of the Wesley Foundation, an attempt has been made to catch the elusive spirit of 16th century Oxford…The quiet dignity of the garden front of St. John's with its interesting bay windows accented against broad wall surfaces has provided inspiration for the north front on Green Street, while on the south side the St. John's court elevations have afforded ample suggestions for the design of a facade of singular breadth.” The style of the building is late 16th century Elizabethan, a transitional style of intimate character with Italian detail grafted upon the body of the English mediaeval tradition. "An attempt has been made in the Social Center to capture this intimate homelike character so that the students of the university would feel free to enter without formal invitation." (John Root, The Social Center Building," Urbana Courier, April 20, 1920, page 20)

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Created on: Friday, March 16, 2012 - 11:18
- Author - SashaC
- Contributors: KevinG