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Reconstruction of Lincoln's New Salem and construction of U of I Memorial Stadium featured in history journal

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[DEC. 18, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- The origins of the movement to reconstruct Lincoln's New Salem and the conception and construction of Memorial Stadium at the University of Illinois are featured in the latest issue of the Journal of Illinois History, a scholarly publication about the state's history.

The reconstruction of the log village now known as Lincoln's New Salem, near Petersburg, is the subject of the cover article.

The desire to commemorate the site of Lincoln's New Salem began long before the state of Illinois created Old Salem State Park in 1919 and began reconstructing the village in the 1930s. Beginning in the 1880s, several interested individuals and groups in Menard County weighed in on how to best present Lincoln's hometown of the 1830s, of which only a single run-down building still existed.

The early efforts of these people eventually resulted in the fully reconstructed log village, covering 700 acres, that now operates as Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site, visited by more than half a million people annually.

The article was written by Richard S. Taylor, Ph.D., chief of technical services for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency's Historic Sites Division, and Mark L. Johnson, Ph.D., a historian with the agency.

Memorial Stadium at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the subject of the second article, written by Matthew Lindaman, Ph.D., an expert on the post-World War I stadium-building boom on America's collegiate campuses.

Two gigantic rallies were conducted in April 1921 by students and faculty at the U of I to show support for a living war memorial in the form of a 50,000-seat football stadium. Excited by the rallies, the student body pledged $700,000 toward the Illinois Memorial Stadium campaign, and the project began.

A national fund-raising campaign followed, kicked off during the Oct. 29, 1921, Illinois-Michigan football game, and promotional brochures were soon printed, with such titles as "Complete that Stadium for the Fighting Illini" and "What the Proposed Stadium and Recreation Field Will Mean to the Women of Illinois."

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Groundbreaking for the stadium was on Sept. 11, 1922, and although the stadium was not entirely finished, the first game was played there at homecoming on Nov. 3, 1923, with the Illini facing the University of Chicago.

Pledge collection problems hounded the project throughout construction, which pushed back the actual completion until late 1924. The formal dedication was during homecoming weekend in 1924, in a game in which Harold "Red" Grange rushed for five Illini touchdowns to beat a heavily favored Michigan team 39-14 in front of 67,000 fans.

The stadium still hosts University of Illinois football games.

The Journal of Illinois History is the foremost publication for readers who value documented research on the state's history. The journal is published by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and features articles, book reviews, essays and bibliographies that have been reviewed by some of the country's leading historians.

Subscriptions are $18 per year for four issues. To obtain a sample copy, contact Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, Publications Section, 1 Old State Capitol Plaza, Springfield, IL 62701; or call (217) 524-6045.

[Illinois Historic Preservation Agency news release]


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