From the days of placing students in the homes of citizens during the late 1800s, through the construction boom of residence halls during the 1960s, to renovations in recent years—housing has always been a priority at Illinois State.

While the commitment to provide students with a safe and rewarding residential experience inevitably leads to seasons of change on campus, history shows that the impetus for housing projects is often tied to enrollment shifts. Cardinal Court was initially constructed for that reason.

President Raymond Fairchild predicted in 1946 that the University would need additional housing after World War II. A temporary trailer park was constructed at the south end of what was then the University Farm. A total of 246 men, women, and children lived in the complex known as Cardinal Court by the spring of 1947.

Plans for more permanent housing were made within a decade and by 1959, a new Cardinal Court was completed on 14.5 acres northwest of campus. A total of 72 one-bedroom apartments were available, along with 24 two-bedroom units. The rent was $53.40 and $63 per month, respectively, excluding utilities. The temporary trailers were bulldozed in 1962.

The Cardinal Court apartments served the needs of married students for decades. In recent years, however, more than 80 percent of the occupants were single, as most families opt for the University’s Shelbourne complex.

The Cardinal Court units needed extensive repair and renovation. Meanwhile, changes in Illinois fire codes mandated substantial investments be made to bring Atkin-Colby and Hamilton-Whitten up to standards by 2013. The University’s administrators opted to invest in a new complex to better meet the needs of students, which resulted in the closure of the four South Campus residence halls this month.

To help offset the subsequent loss of approximately 1,500 beds and to address the University’s aging apartment problem, plans to once again revitalize Cardinal Court were explored. What emerged was one of the most exciting initiatives in Illinois State history: construction of a $45.1 million apartment-style student housing complex made possible through a unique partnership between public and private entities.

The work has been completed, students have unpacked, and a new housing era has begun on the ISU campus.


There has been a lot of change on campus since Maureen Blair joined Student Affairs nearly 25 years ago. Fell Hall was converted from student housing to classroom and office space. Dunn-Barton and Walker halls were replaced by the Student Fitness Center and McCormick Hall.


Larry Dietz remembers high-rise dormitories. That’s what housing was called back in the 1960s, when students were content with a place to eat and sleep. Today students settle into residence halls and apartment complexes designed to continue the learning long after daily lectures have ended.


Two bound volumes that stand a foot tall when stacked sit in Dan Layzell’s office. The pages consist of legal documents required to complete financing for the Cardinal Court project. Layzell, who is ISU’s vice president for Finance and Planning; Comptroller Greg Alt ’81, M.B.A. ’94; and General Counsel Lisa Huson spent months finalizing the details between all the parties and attorneys.


As an undergraduate living in Wilkins and Manchester, Russ Pande ’96 didn’t even know Cardinal Court existed on the northern edge of campus. Now that the new apartments are standing, Pande can only lament that such housing wasn’t available through ISU when he was obtaining his degree in construction management.


After weeks of contemplation, Ashlyn Gathman and her three future roommates decided. They were heading to Cardinal Court for their sophomore year. Gathman took on the responsibility of calling in their reservation when sign-up began at 8:30 in the morning on February 6.


Check out photos from the former Cardinal Court, before demolition, and the remodeled apartment-style complex that opened in summer 2012.


One thought on “Cardinal Court offers students apartment-style living

  1. John Hilborn says:

    My wife and I spent our first year or two of our marriage living in Cardinal Court while completing our degrees. We have many fond memories of that complex and are glad to see that you chose to stay with the name for the new complex.