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A row of Austrian pines borders the construction site for the new Siebel Center for Design, their weathered branches softening the modern lines of the stone and glass building.
Rooted in the university’s early history, these century-old trees have been carefully preserved through the 18-month construction project that is set to wrap up this fall.
They are remnants of a wind break that protected a vast experimental orchard planted there in the late 19th century by botanist Thomas Jonathan Burrill, a pioneer in plant pathology and the third University of Illinois President (1891-94).
More broadly, Burrill is credited with beautifying the young agricultural campus through a comprehensive planting program, some of which survives today. Early university correspondence indicates Burrill personally planted most if not all of the trees on campus during the 1870s, University Landscape Architect Brent Lewis said. Before that, trees were scarce on the prairie landscape.