Before MEB was built in 1947, MEL was actually called the Mechanical Engineering Building. It was built in 1905 at a cost of $25,000. Since then it has had several additions and expansions, including the massive renovation in 2002.
By 1930, the northern half of MEL contained the Power House and the Concrete Preparation Lab. The southern half had the Highway Lab and the Ceramics Lab.
According to the UIHistories project, there were east-west train rails that ran through the engineering quad. After the Highway Lab was added to MEL, a side-set of rails was laid to connect MEL to the main line so that trains could carry materials directly to the labs.
Since its opening, MEL has seen the birth and fruition of countless innovations. Until 1960, MEL held a steam engine developed by a professor and students in 1871.
Allegedly, the idea for the ventilation system used in the Holland Tunnel (the highway tunnel beneath the Hudson River) was developed in MEL. The first of its kind, the system forces fresh air along the ceiling of the tunnel using blowers housed in ventilation buildings with a total of more than 600 horsepower.
And so I close with a reflection for those who have done research or worked on projects in MEL: you have participated in a legacy of Illinois engineering students that’s more than 100 years old.