Watterson Towers, a student residence hall at Illinois State University, is one of the tallest dormitories in the world. Located in Normal, Illinois, at the corner of Fell and Beaufort Streets, it was completed in 1969. The 28-story complex holds over 2,200 students and stands at 91m (298.5 feet). Watterson Towers was named after Arthur W. Watterson, a popular professor and chair of the ISU Geography Department, who taught at the University from 1946-1966. The building was designed by Fridstein and Fitch Architects in Chicago.
Randolph and Jefferson Houses were supposed to be ready for the Fall Semester of 1968, but they were not, even though the University Housing Office had rented out those rooms to 440 girls. So the University Housing office, had the girls from one House triple up with the girls in Hayne Hall and the girls from the other House, tripled up in the first 3 floors of Wright Hall.
The guys who were supposed to live in the first 3 floors of Wright Hall, were tripled up in the upper floors of Wright or Wilkins Hall.
Everyone lived tripled up like that for about six weeks until Watterson was ready for the girls.
The entire building of Watterson Towers was ready in the Fall of 1969.
Externally, the most noticeable feature of the building is that it consists of two separate towers. From the outside an observer sees that the two towers are connected at several points by breezeways. However, to the residents, this division into towers goes almost unnoticed, as what is far more important is the internal division of the building into houses. Watterson is composed of ten of these houses, (five in each tower), and each is considered—in terms of campus governance—to be its own residence hall. The houses are named after the first ten Secretaries of State of the United States.
Each "house" consists of five consecutive floors of a tower. Houses at the same level are paired both physically (in terms of access, see below) and in terms of student governance. For example, the bottom five residential floors of the South Tower comprise "Smith House," and the bottom five residential floors of the North Tower comprise "Jefferson House." Collectively, these are referred to as "Smith-Jefferson," and some governance functions, such as Residential Assistant oversight, are organized on this paired level.
Within a house, most floors are divided into four "suites" consisting of six rooms each. The suites include four double occupancy rooms, a triple room, and a single occupancy room. However, on the middle (third) floor of each house, there are only two suites, as the area for the other two suites is taken up by other things, including the connecting breezeways and some study lounges.
Watterson Towers is the tallest structure in Bloomington-Normal, and can been seen when entering the twin cities from either direction.
North Tower Houses
From top to bottom
South Tower Houses
From top to bottom
Watterson's unique design prevents it from having traditional elevator service, that is, the eight elevators that operate in the building do not stop at every floor.
- There are five residential elevator stops. Each is at the 3rd-floor breezeway of one of the following pairs of houses:
- (A). Smith-Jefferson
- (B). Monroe-Randolph
- (C). Adams-Pickering
- (D). Marshall-Clay
- (E). Madison-Van Buren
- However, only around 10% of Watterson's residents live on a 3rd floor. Nonetheless, other residents also get off the elevator on the 3rd floor, but then take stairs to their floor—up or down—a maximum of two flights. For example, a resident who lived on Clay 4 would get off at the Marshall-Clay Breezeway and then need to walk up one flight of stairs to reach her room.
- In addition to the residential stops, elevators also bring residents to Service Level and Formal Lobby Level, and Informal Level. The Service and Formal Lobby levels both provide access to ground level exits, as well as the dining hall, Watterson Commons. The Informal Level, which is the topmost level accessible to residents, is the location of laundry facilities. Students can check out keys to music practice rooms, some with a piano available. It also provides observers with the highest observation deck in the state outside of the city of Chicago.
Watterson Towers, now more than 40 years old, is currently in the midst of a complete restoration, which will be completed using the houses as stages. The food court renovations were completed in 2010.
Student survives fall from window
Although she was suffering multiple fractures of her limbs and back after a 17-story fall from a dormitory window at Illinois State University in Normal, an 18-year-old Aurora woman was nevertheless alert and asking questions Wednesday from her hospital bed.
And her mother was calling the sapling that broke her daughter`s fall ``a miracle tree.``
Mary Zilly, a freshman at the Downstate university, told her mother, Alice, that she had been waving to a friend in the parking lot Tuesday while leaning against the screen window in her 18th-floor room in Clay House, part of the Watterson Towers dormitory complex. Then the screen broke off, and she tumbled out the window, she told her mother.
Halloween trespasser falls to her death
On Halloween Weekend 2011 a 45 year old woman attempted to climb the 28 story building by using the scaffolding (being used for renovations) on the East side of the building. Reports say she leaned back on the scaffolding and plummeted 200 feet to her death in front of hundreds of spectators. She was pronounced dead at the scene. The woman was not a student, and it is still to be determined why she attempted to climb the building, especially with the cold, wet, and windy conditions.