Clock Tower

Time may be running out for Northwestern University’s clock tower. It’s not included in the school’s new 50-year planning framework which envisions a new connection between the campus and downtown Evanston.

The document calls for a new mixed-use residential district along the north side of Clark Street, with graduate student residences on the upper floors and a mix of conventional commercial and retail uses and artist and music studios on the ground floor.

A sketch looking west on Clark Street from Chicago Avenue showing a proposed new recreation center and mixed-use buildings.

The same view today, showing plantings obscuring a parking lot.

It says the studio spaces would be convenient for art and music students and “would engage the public in the life of the university.”

Willard Hall, one of the oldest buildings on campus, would be preserved.

The plan would preserve the Victorian-era Willard Hall, now headquarters for the music school, the old campus Bursar’s Office, the Lutkin Hall music recital building and some existing dormitories on the superblock bounded by Clark, Sherman Avenue, University Place and Chicago Avenue.

The Rebecca Crown administraction complex and the raised plaza that separates it from the surrounding neighborhood would be demolished.

But it calls for demolition of 1967-vintage Rebecca Crown Center, with its monumental clock tower and austere concrete facade that presents a fortress-like gateway to the campus now.

The plan would also replace the parking lot on the northwest corner of Clark and Chicago, now masked by plantings, with a new south-campus recreation facility — “a glassy, lit building that would help define the Clark Street edge.”

In this east-facing diagram, new construction is shown in orange, existing buildings to be retained in black, and buildings moved from other locations in yellow.

The plan also envisions a dramatic transformation for the block bounded by Sheridan Road, Emerson Street, Orrington Avenue and Foster Street.

The Foster-Walker dorm complex now sits next to a single-family home.

It proposes demolishing the Foster-Walker dorm complex facing Orrington and the Searle Hall health center at Orrington and Emerson and moving a cluster of old single-family homes that now face Sheridan Road to front on Orrington instead.

Some of the houses that now face Sheridan Road.

Under the plan, the space cleared on Sheridan would then be used for new administrative offices including the admissions office and student services.

The university would need to seek city Preservation Commission approval to move the houses fronting Sheridan Road and would likely seek zoning height variations for the mixed use district on Clark Street and a zoning use change to permit construction of the recreation facility.

Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl, whose 7th Ward includes part of the campus, said, “I’m very grateful to have a plan from them. It’s been very frustrating not having a plan and not knowing what they intend to do.

“I think it’s a good thing — a sign of a more transparent NU,” but she added that a lot of neighborhood meetings will be needed to work out the details.

A community meeting to discuss the plan is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Oct. 16 at the Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave.

The full plan is available online.

Related story

Northwestern unveils 50-year plan

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Save the clocktower!
    I wonder if a group of concerned neighborhood activists will spring up to demand the preservation of the “historic” NU clocktower and the Crown center.

  2. Clocktower
    I love mod architecture, but I have to say that Crown and its clock are hideous. Experiencing it from the inside is even worse than experiencing it from the outside–it is like a rodent warren, or maybe a gopher hole. I defy anyone to say that he/she will miss it when it is gone!!!

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