No matter what you call it — Ike South, Peabody Drive Residence Halls or, as Bryan Freres will always know it, Snyder Hall — there are few places left like it on the shiny, new UI campus.
“While campus has seemingly been torn down and rebuilt since I left, the old Snyder Hall building is still there,” says Freres (BA ’04, history; JD ’07, law), an Urbana-based assistant U.S. attorney.
Completed in 1960-61 along with Scott and Weston halls for a combined construction cost of $6.9 million, Snyder is where Freres lived (as a freshman) and worked (as a junior and senior year RA). It’s also where “I met several people who still affect my life today,” he says.
“Snyder was in a great location for me — right across the street from the recreation center, then called IMPE, and Memorial Stadium, and an easy walk to my classes around the Quad. It also had the best dorm food, with Fat Don’s — one big barbeque — on Wednesday evenings.
“Growing up in smalltown Illinois, the University of Illinois was the only place I wanted to go to college. I am so thankful for my time at the university, and I have many great memories from my time there. The campus has something for everyone, and picking one favorite spot is difficult.
“I spent a lot of time studying in Gregory Hall, and perhaps a bit too much time lounging on the Quad between classes, tailgating outside Memorial Stadium on fall Saturday mornings, and socializing at Murphy’s Pub,” says Freres, who still has his 35th anniversary Murphy’s logo mug from 2004.
“The campus spot I appreciated the most from an academic and symbolic perspective, even though it had nothing to do with my personal studies, was the Observatory. A small brick and domed building next to the Morrow Plots, it was always a symbolic reminder for me of the university’s history and its contributions in science and technology.
“The telescope was no longer state-of-the-art for research purposes, even in the early 2000s, but I still remember being surprised by its clarity when viewing Saturn and its rings the first time I was at the Observatory. The Observatory building is on the National Register of Historic Places, and I believe some pioneering research occurred there over the years.
“When standing in a historic landmark location looking through an ‘outdated’ — for research purposes; it is still great — telescope designed to study worlds we still cannot reach, it always felt somewhat timeless. For me at least, the Observatory served as both a reminder of the university’s rich academic history, and of all the discoveries yet to be made by current and future graduates.
“It was a hidden gem on campus.”