Constructed between 1963 and 1965, the tower was named after the founder of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District, the late H.I. Gelvin. Mr. Gelvin, president of the Board of Commissioners from 1948 to 1975, was instrumental in the creation of the tower, along with many other features throughout the park. The tower cost $55,000 to build and was financed through public donations. A large sum of that money came from a $31,000 anonymous contribution.
Architects Laz and Edwards of Champaign designed the structure, which is located on a grassy hill in the southeast side of the park just off Lake of the Woods Road. The design was based on features from numerous bell towers in Europe. The 16-square-foot tower stands 100 feet high. Thirty-five feet of that are comprised of the steeple-type, shingle roof. The roof weighs eight tons, and during construction, was hoisted up by a crane, using special equipment from Chicago. The ground floor of the tower is paneled in wood and brick. The second through fifth floors have masonry walls and narrow windows. The sixth floor is an observation deck, where visitors can look out over the park and the surrounding area. The HI-Tower is open daily, weather-permitting, with no admission charge.