Wheaton magazine

Volume 21 // Special
Wheaton magazine // Billy Graham

Billy Graham's Wheaton: A Walking Tour

120 W. Wesley circa 2016
photo by Mike Hudson '89

1. The United Gospel Tabernacle, "The Tab,"120 W. Wesley

Billy Graham served as pastor for the “Tab” from September 1941 until June 1943. This independent congregation included both people from the town and from Wheaton College, with college students predominating. Dr. V. Raymond Edman HON resigned as pastor in 1940 when he became president of the College, and recommended Graham as his replacement. This was the first church (or organization) for which Graham had primary responsibility.

Williston Hall
photo by Mike Hudson '89


The evangelist said the "most precious spot on campus for me is the tree in front of Williston Hall where I met my wife Ruth." The Daily Journal (Oct. 5, 1959)

Billy Graham walks with friends in front of Williston Hall in the 1940s
Photo courtesy of the Billy Graham Center Archives
Billy and Ruth Graham on Blanchard Lawn
photo courtesy of the Billy Graham Center Archives

3. Blanchard Hall

Per Billy Graham’s suggestion, on April 22, 1942, Dr. Edman began the practice of ringing the Tower bell every day at 5 p.m. It was rung throughout World War II as a reminder to pray for those in service, and for peace. At that time, Blanchard Hall housed classrooms, offices, a men’s dormitory, and the library. Graham took most of his classes here. In the library, sometime in late 1940, with many suggestions from friends and shushings from the librarian, he composed and delivered a note to Ruth Bell ’43, asking her out on their first date.

Pierce Chapel
Photo by Mike Hudson '89

4. Pierce Chapel

The daily chapel services were held here, as well as numerous other campus events, including a performance of Handel’s "Messiah" that would be Billy and Ruth’s first date. The 1943 Wheaton Revival also took place here. Special services led by Harold P. Warren turned into three days of continuous prayer and confession by students and faculty. Graham was part of a group of six students that had been praying for a revival on campus.

Students in the Attic
photo courtesy of the Wheaton College Archives, Buswell Library

5. 712 Howard Street (The Attic)

Along with four other young men, Billy Graham lived on the second floor of this private home, owned by Gus and Anna Hansen, during his junior and senior years. “Billy was the kind of boy that would come home happy in the afternoon and go up to his room. I would hear him walking back and forth, back and forth. I could hear him talking and talking . . . I have an idea that he was just practicing his message for the Sunday service.” From a 1975 interview with Anna Hansen by Dr. Lois Ferm

The crowd at the 1959 Wheaton Crusade
photo courtesy of the Wheaton College Archives, Buswell Library

6. Graham Field

This was the site for most of the evening meetings of the 1959 Wheaton Crusade. Hundreds of students, faculty, and staff served as ushers, counselors, and members of the choir for the evening meetings. Volunteers from 130 Chicago-area churches joined them. Eighteen thousand folding chairs were set up on the field for crowds totaling 101,000 people for the week. Rev. Allan Billman, pastor of the Gary Memorial Methodist Church in Wheaton, said at the time, “Our church should never be the same again.” The Daily Journal (Oct. 10, 1959)

The Billy Graham Center
photo by Mike Hudson '89

7. Billy Graham Center

Billy Graham dedicates the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College in 1979
Photo courtesy of the Billy Graham Center Archives

On September 13, 1980, Billy Graham gave the dedication speech for the Center, almost exactly 40 years after he attended his first classes at Wheaton. Both the Library of Congress and Yale University offered to be the repository for his personal papers. Instead of accepting these offers, Graham and his colleagues at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) decided to create an institution that would serve the church as a center for evangelism. Wheaton College volunteered the land for the Center and was accepted because of its continuing commitment to Christ and His Kingdom. 

Billy and Ruth Graham at the Billy Graham Center groundbreaking at Wheaton College in 1977.
photo courtesy of the Billy Graham Center Archives