In 1895, after the approval from the Illinois Legislature for the creation of normal schools throughout the eastern and northern regions of Illinois, a decision was made that the Northern Illinois Normal School would be built in DeKalb, Illinois. Built from 1895 to 1899, the "Administration Building" was renamed “Altgeld Hall” in 1964 for former Illinois Governor John P. Altgeld, who backed and signed the necessary legislation for the creation of the institution. Beautifully viewed as a blend of Tudor Gothic and English-castle style architecture, Altgeld Hall was designed according to the wishes of governor Altgeld during his governorship. Due to the governor’s fondness for the Tudor Gothic style of architecture, students and guests can view the “grotesques” placed atop the central tower. Nine of the original eleven “grotesques” still maintain their places, and one now occupies a lovely place in the east garden.
“When Altgeld Hall first was completed in 1899, it housed an entire university. It was classroom and boardroom, library and gymnasium, administrative office building and lecture hall. Today it [Altgeld Hall] serves a new generation of students, faculty and staff with a mixture of grand public spaces and modern work areas—all in a style of its original designers, who believed that ‘knowledge deserves a castle’”. Altgeld Hall: The Dawn of a New Century. NIU publications
As the birthplace of Northern Illinois University, Altgeld Hall remains to be a historic building within the history of the institution. In 1999, the Capital Development Board approved the decision to rehabilitate and restore Altgeld Hall. After five years of renovations and restorations, Altgeld Hall reopened in early September of 2004. Today, the building is home to the offices of the president, Academic and Student Affairs, Finance and Facilities, University Advancement and NIU Foundation, the University Council, and the university’s legal and external affairs functions. An extension of the NIU art museum is also located in Altgeld Hall, allowing students and guests to visit the many exhibitions that are on display year round.