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Watterson Towers

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Watterson Towers

Watterson Towers

Watterson Towers is a student residence hall at Illinois State University, and is the second tallest dormitory in the world at 298.5 feet. 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).[1] 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.

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.[2]

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. The towers are also the tallest structures between Chicago and St. Louis in Illinois.

Campus View, from the Informal Level at the top of Watterson Towers

North Tower Houses
From top to bottom

South Tower Houses
From top to bottom


  • Renovations 1
  • Falling incidents 2
    • Student survives fall from window 2.1
    • Halloween trespasser falls to her death 2.2
  • References 3


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.[3] The food court renovations were completed in 2010.

Falling incidents

Student survives fall from window

In 1987, although she was suffering multiple fractures of her limbs and back after a 17-story fall from a dormitory window, an 18-year-old Aurora woman was nevertheless alert and asking questions from her hospital bed. Mary Zilly, a freshman at the time, told her mother Alice that she had been waving to a friend in the parking lot while leaning against the screen window in her 18th-floor room.[4]

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.[5]


  1. ^ "Watterson Towers: Residence Halls: University Housing Services". 2010-05-19. Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  2. ^ "Watterson Renovations: Renovations: Residence Halls". 2010-05-19. Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  3. ^ Steinbacher, Michele (2010-06-06). "Watterson to be part of ISU's largest housing renovation". Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  4. ^ "Woman Survives 17-story Fall From Dorm - Chicago Tribune". 1987-04-30. Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  5. ^ Barlow, Kevin (2011-10-31). "Woman dead after fall from Watterson ID'd". Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
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