Illinois Industrial University (now the University of Illinois), founded in 1867, began in a large building at University Avenue and Wright Street in Urbana. The first on-campus housing at the University of Illinois opened in 1868, when the beginning class of 77 men lived on the top floors of the University's original building. Students wore cadet uniforms, were marched to the compulsory daily chapel, and performed two hours a day of manual labor for the University.
When the cornerstone of the first University residence hall was laid on October 21, 1916, President Edmund James stipulated the building was to be called a residence hall to distinguish it from the dormitory sleeping arrangements in fraternities, sororities, and rooming houses.
Mary Busey, University trustee, was present at the laying of the cornerstone of the first residence hall, and the building was later named in her honor. Busey was influential and persistent in establishing on-campus housing women. The first residents of Busey Hall were, however, men from the School of Military Aeronautics. During World War I, Busey Hall was known as "Barracks Number Two," and a bronze plaque inside the door of Busey Hall commemorates this fact.
Women had been admitted to the University beginning in 1871, and the upper floors of the Women's Building (now the English Building) were used as the first on-campus housing for women. Busey Hall's columns were designed to resemble the Quad entrance of the Women's Building.
Over the years, on-campus housing has grown to 25 undergraduate residence halls; Sherman and Daniels Halls, which are home to graduate students and upper-division undergraduate students; and three apartment complexes.