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Morrill Hall: A brief history

During the initial years of the college, the only buildings on campus were those that made up the Model Farm (including the Farm House) and Old Main.  Two years after the college opened there came a need for a building to house a library and museum. Funding was approved twenty years later and it was decided that the building would be named for Justin Smith Morrill, who had sponsored the bill establishing the Land-Grant College system.  A design by architects Josselyn and Taylor of Cedar Rapids was accepted, and O.J. King of Omaha was selected as contractor.   

The building was constructed at a cost of $28,739 and dedicated on June 16th, 1891. See the invitation and dedication program

In addition to the museum, library, and chapel, Morrill Hall housed the armory and laboratory and classrooms for the Department of Zoology, Entomology, and Geology.  Its completion in 1891 allowed for some changes in Old Main, including the conversion of the old chapel into a dining room. 

The library and museum spaces were eventually remodeled into student living quarters. Morrill Hall continued to serve its original purpose for a number of years, but by 1910, the Zoology Department was requesting new space.  Conditions had become so crowded that the Chapel was being used for class work, and additional laboratories had to be set up in the basement.

In 1914, the Library was moved to Beardshear Hall, and the Agricultural Extension Offices and Document Room were moved to Morrill Hall.  The Zoology Department moved out when Science Building #1 was completed in 1916. Though Extension was the longest-term tenant in Morrill Hall, a number of other departments also shared the building. 

The Music Department used the Chapel as a choir room until the new Music Hall was completed in 1980. The Publications Office was in Morrill from 1937 until it was closed in 1993.  Information Service (now University Relations) shared the building from 1946 until 1996, when they moved to the Communications Building.  Photo Service, which had been housed in Morrill since 1966, also moved to the Communications Building in 1996.  Extension was the last department to leave the building, moving out in 1998.

top photo: Old Main and Morrill Hall, ca. 1890s

inset photo:  Morrill Hall, 1979

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