Old MainNowhere on the Knox campus are the history and the ideals of the College so intertwined with the modern-day work of faculty and students as in Old Main. An American architectural landmark of the first order, Old Main's history is still very much alive in its offices, classrooms, and public spaces.
Old Main is the only existing site of one of the famous 1858 senatorial debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas and has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. It was through one of its east-facing windows that the future President of the United States climbed to reach the debate platform, where he is said to have quipped "At last I have gone through college." The very chair where Lincoln sat that day, the aptly named "Lincoln Chair," still sits in Old Main's Alumni Room to this day.
Today, Old Main remains the heart of the Knox College campus, welcoming students and faculty to its classrooms, visitors to the Lincoln-Douglas Debate site, and staff to its offices. The building also houses the President's Office, the History, English, and Philosophy departments, and other offices. The iconic bell tower top Old Main, renovated in 2001-2002, rings in each day's classes.
Architecturally, Old Main is one of the most important pre-Civil War buildings in the Midwest. Built in the most respected style of the day-Collegiate Gothic-Old Main received high praise upon its completion in 1857 and is still recognized today as a building of architectural distinction.
In addition to its status as a National Historic Landmark, Old Main expresses Knox College's ongoing commitment to equal rights, democratic ideals, international excellence, an openness to new and old, and a mission to summon up the best in ourselves, as evidenced in Knox's Original Circular and Plan, which hangs on Old Main's first floor.
"Probably nothing symbolizes the durability and legacy of Knox College better than Old Main," says Knox College President Roger L. Taylor '63.