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Homecoming provided a blast from the past at NIU

October 17, 2018

The Douglas Hall time capsule

Visitors attending Homecoming enjoyed a glimpse into NIU’s past when the Douglas Hall time capsule was opened on Oct. 13. The copper box that was tucked away in a cornerstone of the university’s residence hall was removed and placed in the University Archives when Douglas Hall was demolished in 2014.

“People love discovering secrets from the past and the unveiling of time capsules is a perfect example,” Cindy Ditzler, director of NIU Regional History Center and University Archives, said. “It is almost like  going on a treasure hunt and discovering the gold.”

The gold included construction photos, newspapers, a DeKalb street map and a population projection. In addition to university information like an undergraduate catalog and a residence hall menu, there was a Douglas Hall floor plan and a schedule of room and board charges.

The placing of the time capsule during the groundbreaking of Douglas Hall

Full list of contents for the Douglas Hall time capsule:

Population Projection to 1975City of DeKalb street map
Northern Star issues 5/18/1962 and 11/9/1962
Rockford Morning Star article, 12/9/60, ground breaking of residence hall
Pantagraph Bloomington 12/6/60 article on dorm construction
Construction photos: groundbreaking, construction/cranes, digging the foundation
Floor plan of Douglas Hall
NIU Information booklet, 1962-63
NIU undergraduate catalog, 1961-1963
NIU graduate catalog, 1961-1963
Pre-college counseling handbook, 1961-1962
Association of college and university housing officers newsletter article,10/62
Regulation and minimum standards for approved off campus student housing, 7/1962
Residence Hall Menu, Nov. 13-19 1962
NIU News Items newsletter, Nov-Dec 1960, Jan 1961, May 1962, Oct. 1962, Nov. 1962
Schedule of Board refunds, 9/62
Schedule of Room and Board charges, 9/62
General Housing information, 2/1967
Letter to applicant from Office of Director of Housing, no date
Off campus housing program, 4/1961
Revised budget request, Division of Business Services Housing Office, 10/30/61
University Housing Office, moveable furniture Abraham Lincoln Residence Hall, 1962

“Not all time capsules withstand the test of time,” Ditzler said. “Douglas Hall’s capsule and the items inside were in excellent condition.”

Located on Lucinda Avenue until it was demolished in 2014, Douglas Hall opened its doors to residents in September, 1963. The time capsule was opened this year to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the resident hall’s opening.

NIU alum Judy Schrock remembers it well.

“I was a resident advisor (R.A.) at Douglas when it first opened in 1963,” Schrock said, who now resides in Sycamore. “It was exciting to live there because it was new and the arrangement (of rooms) was very nice.”

Schrock was resident advisor from 1963-1965 before graduating with a teaching degree in 1966. While the perks of the university’s newest dorms were many, including telephones in each room rather than a shared hallway phone, she said there was a downside.

“It was a really long walk to some classes from there, especially to classes at Anderson (Hall),” Schrock said.

The elements – DeKalb’s chilly winters – and the rules of the time didn’t help.

“Back then women had to wear skirts to get into the library,” Schrock said. “I remember one really cold day in particular and several of us had frost-bitten knees because we had to walk the distance.”

Schrock was at NIU to see the contents of the Douglas Hall capsule on Saturday. She said it was a time of her life – and a place in her life – that holds very fond memories.

“I enjoyed what NIU offered me when I was there,” Schrock said. “Leaving home and going to NIU was an important part of my life and it has remained a part of my life.”

The event was hosted by the Regional History Center and University Archives along with University Libraries.