Recreation, Park & Tourism Administration
History of Horn Field Campus
Located just south of Macomb is a 92-acre tract of land owned by Western Illinois University (WIU) named Hornlea Lodge, more commonly called the Horn Field Campus (HFC). Managed and operated the WIU Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Administration (RPTA), the Horn Field Campus has been part WIU since the mid-1960s.
In May of 1965, the Board of Governors of State Colleges and Universities approved a resolution enabling WIU to purchase the Hornlea Lodge properties from Frank J. “Pappy” Horn. Through a generous offer by “Pappy” Horn and monies approved by the Board of Governors, WIU was able to acquire the property, which at the time had an appraised value of $96,200. Mr. Horn’s generosity helped offset the purchase price and aided WIU in expanding its off-campus land holdings. To honor Mr. Horn for his contribution to WIU, the property was named Frank J. Horn Field Campus.
“Pappy” Horn was known in the Macomb community as a very civically-minded businessman. Beside owning the Horn Bottling Company, a distributor of Coca-Cola products, Horn was involved in many local organizations, among them the Macomb Rotary, Macomb Elks Club, Macomb School Board, Macomb Chamber of Commerce, Knights of Columbus, American Legion, and the local Boy Scout organization. It was this last interested that provided the impetus for Horn’s donation of Camp Pearl, named in honor of his wife, to the Boy Scouts. Horn was also involved with the Defense Recreation Committee during World War II and was instrumental in establishing the local USO Club for soldiers stationed at Camp Ellis.
Horn Field Campus includes a brick lodge and three cabins, located on terrain ranging from woodlands, prairie, and farmland. The construction of the large HFC lodge is interesting in its own right. The wooden flooring is put together with pegs. Two fireplaces are located on either end of the lodge, while pickle jar lamps once hung from the California redwood beams that cross the ceiling. Intricate ironwork adorned the doors of the lodge, showing off the skilled art of the craftsmen who had worked on the buildings. “If a person were to try to duplicate the buildings today, he couldn’t do it for less than $500,000,” according to Frank Horn in a 1965 Western Courier article.
Several HFC buildings were constructed during the Depression, when the property was owned by the William Bacon family. Given the economic conditions, Bacon was able to hire expert craftsmen cheaply to build “modern for the time” structures. One original cabin was constructed of walnut and a fireplace with a “built–in ice cooler” next to it. By simply removing a loose stone to expose the cooler, guests could have cold refreshments. Unfortunately, that cabin was destroyed by fire and when it was rebuilt, walnut was not used nor was the cabin’s unique cooler replaced.
Originally intended as a retreat for the Bacon family and friends, the buildings were described in a 1965 Western Courier article as “four structures [which] appeared as though they were from another era—wooden shingles, staccato brick sides, and fancy ironwork on the doors.”
Horn Field Campus has been the site of a large number of campus events and activities over the years. WIU events held regularly at the campus include the Wilderness First Responder Course, Outdoor Skills Workshops, and contests on the Challenge Course. All of these programs offer a challenge of some sort to the participants.
The nationally recognized Wilderness First Responder Course trains students to handle emergencies in remote settings. The Challenge Course includes events from ground level up to forty feet in the trees, among them a climbing and rappelling tower.
Cooperation between WIU and local organizations allows people from throughout the area to utilize the field campus. One of the more popular events that attracts people of all ages is the Corn Maze, which opens in October. Visitors are welcome to find their way through the corn maze; as Halloween approaches, flashlight visits to the maze are available at night. On Halloween night, maze visitors should be wary because haunted spirits come out of the corn.
Once the summer home of its previous owners, Horn Field Campus remains, as it has been since 1965, an asset to WIU and the surrounding community.