Smile Politely

A Building, A Feeling, and A Latrine: Spring on the Quad

The University of Illinois Main Quad is one of the most magical places in C-U. Now that the weather is finally (Maybe? Possibly?) warming up, I’ve decided to write an entire B/F/L about the Quad and what it means to me, at least when the sun is out.

People Watchin’ On the Quad

No dear readers, this is not some momentous error. I’m putting the Feeling first this month on purpose for DRAMATIC EFFECT (you’ll understand shortly).

As a humor columnist, but also just as a human being, I love the ancient pastime of people-watching. For my money, there’s no better place to people-watch in C-U than the U of I Main Quad on a warm, sunny afternoon. Here’s just a sampling of things you can see while hanging out on the Quad:

  • dozens of extremely tame squirrels
  • students crying openly for unknown reasons
  • absent-minded professors speed-walking to class 
  • fancy businesspeople doing a business
  • whole families who don’t know their way around the campus
  • some guy flying a drone
  • student tour groups full of high schoolers embarrassed about their parents
  • roving packs of religious zealots loudly talking about the afterlife
  • pet rabbits out for a walk
  • pet cats out for a walk
  • boys falling off skateboards
  • people trying very hard to look cool while reading
  • nappers of various skill levels
  • adorable human babies
  • soon-to-be-graduates wearing their caps and gowns while their parents (who are so gosh dern proud) take a trillion photos
  • people making out
  • people storming off in a huff
  • people accidentally dropping food on the ground and getting super sad about it
  • the foam sword kids
  • the real sword kids
  • hammocks

Yes, nearly the entire spectrum of human experience and emotion can be seen on the Quad if you take the time to look.

I urge you to spend some time on the Quad this spring/summer, even if you have no actual affiliation to the University. It is a place that is welcome to all.

The Class of 1912 Bench Thingy aka the “Eternal Flame”

Alright, so this isn’t really a building in the traditional sense, but it definitely is a structure that I have very strong feelings about, so I’m putting it in here.

Surely you’ve seen this semicircular stone bench before, even if you haven’t really noticed it. Seems like a good place to lounge by the Quad right?


In addition to this bench being fairly uncomfortable, whenever you try to get some good people-watching going, BOOM!

There’s a huge column in the way.

Maybe if I shift over to the right a little bit….

NOPE still living in Visual Obstructionsville USA.


Can I at least put my feet up on the column?

Uhhh, maybe if I was eight feet tall!


In doing research on this structure I learned that this thing is called the “Eternal Flame,” a gift of course, from the Class of 1912. The end product was supposed to feature an always-glowing electric light at the top of the column. I guess it kinda makes sense now why the column would be in the middle of the thing, right in the way of all the people-watchin’ and dog-spotting. In 1912, what could you possibly want to look at other than the miraculous power of a modern light bulb? Even the dogs of 1912 didn’t stand a chance.

Another fun fact that I didn’t even realize when I was taking dozens of photos of this thing: “The pedestal at the top of the column is stamped on three of its sides with the words “Class of 1912”, however the north side of the pedestal is mysteriously blank.”

Wow, typical Class of 1912, quitting work on their flame bench thingy before it’s done. You really screwed the pooch on this one Class of 1912. For that matter, the whole rear of the bench is weirdly empty. I bet the Class of 1912 had big plans for all this, but then they were just too lazy, which honestly, I kinda respect. Stopping at “good enough” is a hallmark of college seniors the world over and throughout history.

Another fun fact: apparently there’s a “tradition” (more of a superstition really), that if you kiss somebody in the light of the “Eternal Flame” you will be together foreverrrr. However, more recently, “the electric light tends to flicker on and off, so students have changed the myth: Lovers who kiss underneath the flame are doomed to an on-again, off-again relationship.” That sounds truly terrible. Just another reason why the eternal flame should be KNOCKED OVER, and TAKEN AWAY.

Yes, I’ve got big plans for this thing. We remove the column completely, and replace it with a lovely semi-circular bench/footrest thing. More seating, more comfort and better views! In honor of those rapscallions in the class of 1912, I’ll even allow for the footrest to have a flat image of a flame which glows tastefully (but does not contain any sort of supernatural romantic properties).

Bench technology and lighting technology have come a long way in 106 years. Make the right choice and help me achieve my vision for a new Eternal Flame!

Davenport Hall, 3rd Floor Men’s Room

For this Quad-focused edition of B/F/L, I wanted to find a restroom with a view of the Quad. I explored (almost) every building surrounding the Main Quad, but tragically, the Quad-facing rooms were all offices and classrooms and such. Still, I did find one particularly nice bathroom that you can go to on those long, sunny afternoons when you’re hanging out on the lawn, but need to do your business.

When it’s a lovely day out, you don’t want to use some tiny, musty bathroom buried deep in some basement. You want fresh air and sunshine! Just look at these windows! All this natural light!

And this roomy stall even has its very own window! More than big enough to let in a fresh spring breeze, and also let out any foul restroom gasses.

And wow, what a gorgeous view!

The rest of this bathroom is also quite nice. Definitely recently renovated with new tile and fixtures.

Extra surprising then that this restroom is in Davenport Hall, the rest of which looks like a grimy, derelict museum from the 1930s.

Yes, Davenport is kinda cool, but I really didn’t expect much of the restrooms. A+, very impressed. I recommend the Davenport 2nd/3rd floor restrooms to anyone chillin’ on the Quad. 

Related Articles