Emergency Hall

About 3:30am on December 8, 1900 a fire broke out in the boiler room in the basement of the Main Building. The fire quickly spread to the north staircase and soon after the north wing and north tower were in flames, forcing students to flee the building and leaving most of their possessions behind. The fire was extinguished, with the help of the Boone fire department, before the center section was completely destroyed and before it had reached the south wing.  

Old Main after fire on December 8, 1900 with people viewing the destruction. Building is still smoking.
Old Main December 8, 1900. University Photograph Collection, RS 4-8-I Box 275

After an assessment by the State Architect, it was reported that the north wing was entirely destroyed and should be razed (torn down).  While the central section had been gutted by flames, the walls were deemed safe, and the south wing had only smoke and water damage. He recommended that a simple roof be added to the central section and doors, windows, and plaster be replaced at a minimal expense, with the building only being used as a temporary housing unit.  

Old Main after the fire and minimal repairs made. The razing of the damaged north wing is in process.
Old Main December 8, 1900. University Photograph Collection, RS 4-8-I Box 275

Finding new classroom space became imperative, and the College’s Board of Trustees asked the State Executive Council for $20,000 from the emergency fund for repairs to Old Main and to erect a temporary building for classrooms and offices. On December 21st the Executive Committee appropriated only $10,000 for a temporary building.  

H.W. Schleuter Construction out of Chicago was awarded the contract after a bid of $8,000 was accepted by the Board on January 5, 1901 for the erection of Recitation Hall. Construction started shortly after and was completed in early March. The wooden building was 170 feet long and 52 feet wide and contained ten rooms, seven for classes and three for offices, was heated via Old Main, and was wired for electricity.  

Single story wood structure known as Emergency Hall.
Emergency Hall c1901. University Photograph Collection, RS 4-8-I Box 189

It came to be known as Emergency Hall, as it had sprung up out of necessity following an emergency and had only been in use for a little over a year when catastrophe struck again. On the morning of August 14, 1902 another fire broke out in Old Main, causing complete destruction of the remaining sections of the building. Efforts by students, faculty, and staff resulted in the saving of furniture and a large portion of the botanical specimens.  The cause of the second fire was believed to be arson, but was never proven.

Old Main engulfed in flames on morning of August 14, 1902. All wood aspects seem to have burned at this point and can only see brick surrounded by flames.
Old Main August 12, 1902. University Photograph Collection, RS 4-8-I Box 275
Collapsed brick façade of Old Main following the second fire.
Old Main August 12, 1902. University Photograph Collection, RS 4-8-I Box 275

A contract was quickly awarded to Schleuter Construction for $4675 to expand Emergency Hall with eight additional classrooms and $150 for two offices, but in the end only six classrooms were added. The building was considered far from satisfactory as was pointed out in the Biennial Report of the College. It was overcrowded with almost 2,800 students enrolled in courses in the building and an average of 600 gathered in the hall between classes. This caused confusion and disturbances of classes in session, leading to strain on the patience of instructors and students. There was a call to get the new central building constructed as soon as possible.  

It wasn’t until March of 1906 that the new Central Building (Beardshear Hall) was complete, and Emergency Hall was razed.  

Poem from Iowa State Daily - 
Last of "Old Emergency"
No announcement will be more pleasing to 04s, 05s, and 06s than to hear that "Emergency" hall exists only in memory. Before long, fresh green grass will be growing where the temporary structure stood and where so man who love I.S.C. gained a great part of that culture which goes to make up a college education. We're glad "Old Emergency" is gone; however we will always remember it with charity. The following lines express our feelings at this juncture:
To "Emergency" Hall
Let others sing of marbled halls,
Of oaken stairs and picture walls;
But dearer far it is to me,
To praise despised "Emergency."
Long and narrow, worn and low,
With its windows all arow,
There it stood, the scorn of all
Waiting for its down-fall.
Daily thru its echoing halls,
We've heard the voices and foot-falls,
Of Seniors wise and Freshmen green,
Of Juniors, and Sophomores serene.
Here Seniors met to walk and talk,
And Sophomores went to get their "chalk,"
Juniors, to lecture and debate,
And Freshmen, to learn to demonstrate.
You tell me it has only served its day!
I know it, and you may have your way;
But remember this if you are wise, 
"Great men from Emergencies arise."
-An Alumnus
Last of “Old Emergency”, Iowa State Daily, September 10, 1906.

Walking through the winters of our past #FlashbackFriday

Photograph of white female student, long hair with glasses, close-up in a library office setting (cubicle & book shelves filled with books visible in the background).
Photograph courtesy of Cassandra.

This blog post was authored by Curation Services Student Writer Cassandra Anderson.

For this #FlashbackFriday I thought we might dive into some pretty cool snow images from the past. I have had these images saved for a while now because I really wanted to wait until we had some snowy weather to compare them to, and boy did mother nature deliver! Students are walking through about five inches of snow to get to their classes today after the snow filled few days we have had! Snow on campus is something that every group of students will experience while studying here at Iowa State University, and while some students love the snow, others are less than excited by it.

A large group of students walking along the sidewalk on central campus that runs from Curtiss Hall to Beardshear Hall in a heavy snow fall, 1979.
From University Photographs box 328.

Here are students walking from Curtiss Hall to Beardshear Hall on central campus in 1979. While there is no other date information for this photo, it looks like they were getting some pretty serious snowfall. This scene could have been recreated yesterday with the amount of snow students were walking through at the end of the day. This photo and more snow scenes can be found in box 328 of RS 4/8/J. Currently it is not snowing, but I can see my fellow students trying to navigate the frozen world outside. Here is a look at what the view from my window on the second floor of the library is right now! While most of the students are at their early morning classes, a few are walking the sidewalks, trying to get places with the two inches of snow we gained last night.

View from the second floor windows of Parks library looking out over the snow covered free speech area, Beardshear Hall is in the background.
Photograph courtesy of Cassandra.

Another cool photo that I found while looking through box 328 of collection RS 4/8/J – Snow Scenes, was an almost identical photo from the first group of students walking in the snow, only this one is from 1994! These students look a little more excited about the snow, and it looks like there was less snow compared to the photo from 1979. How cool is it though that we have two almost identical photos from two separate years? I love finding these connections in the archives, you truly never know what might turn up!

A large group of students walking along the sidewalk on central campus that runs from Curtiss Hall to Beardshear Hall in the snow, 1994.
From University Photographs, box 328.




A (Very) Brief History of the Hub

This summer, the Hub is once again getting an update. ISU Dining is altering the interior layout and renovating the existing seating areas in order to reduce congestion. We who work in Special Collections and University Archives take particular interest in the Hub, since it is so easy for us to glance down from our fourth floor reading room windows in Parks Library to check on our next-door neighbor. The Hub is rather small compared to the large buildings surrounding it, but the humble Hub has a very active 126 year history.

Photograph of the Hub as it appeared shortly after it was built. The Dinkey is waiting at the station for people to board.
This picture shows the Hub sometime around 1900. The Dinkey is at the platform waiting for people to board and the Marston water tower is visible in the background. (University Photograph Collection, Box 251)

Few buildings on campus have had such a wide variety of uses as the Hub. Constructed in 1892, the Hub originally served as the college bookstore, post office, and depot for the small steam railway, affectionately known as the Dinkey, that ran from campus to downtown Ames.

Student getting an ice cream treat from a vending machine in the Hub in 1960.
Vending machines arrived in the Hub in 1959. Students had their choice of ice cream, candy, milk, soda, and other goodies. An ISU Daily article from the early 1960s stated that students chose soda pop to milk by almost 2 to 1. Go figure! (University Photograph Collection, Box 144)

Over time, the Hub was moved, added onto, and renovated to fit the needs of a growing campus. The bookstore vacated in 1958 for more spacious environs in the Memorial Union, the post office moved out five years later to a new office in Campustown, and food first came to the Hub in 1959 when vending machines moved into the building. Over the following decades, the Hub would also be home to a copy center, a ticket office, and the University Traffic Office. A dedicated outdoor seating area was added in 1983 signaling the space as a frequent gathering area for students.

The Hub as it appeared in 1983 with Morrill Hall in the background.
This picture shows the Hub as it appeared in 1983 after the outdoor seating area was added. This is what the Hub looked like when I was a student in the 1990s. (University Slide Collection, Box 9)

Even in the last 15 years that I have worked in the Library, I have been witness to several significant changes at the Hub. In 2008, the interior was completely renovated, incorporating a grill and coffee shop and an addition of a north wing for added seating. Six years later the exterior seating area would get a major revamp. The current round of improvements will see the end of vending machines in the Hub after a nearly 60-year run, but food and coffee will still be served at the Hub.

A view of the Hub, 2018.
This is the view of the Hub from the Special Collections and University Archives reading room. It’s not uncommon for our staff to wander over to the windows to see what’s going on outside when we need to stretch our legs a bit. (Photo courtesy of Brad Kuennen, 2018)

Additional information on the history of the Hub may be found in several places in Special Collections and University Archives. The Facilities Planning and Management Buildings and Grounds Files, RS 4/8/4 is a great collection to start with for any research on campus buildings. An excellent book titled The Iowa State University Campus and Its Buildings, 1959-1979, by former University Architect H. Summerfield Day is also an excellent first place to start. The archives also has historic photographs and other files that may be of interest to those looking for information on campus buildings. We would love to see you stop by to start your own research project on the Hub!

#TBT Parks Library in the winter

Here is a #Throwback Thursday photograph of the Parks Library in the winter. This image depicts the entrance facing Morrill Road, which is no longer a working entrance.

black-and-white wintry scene showing students in coats exiting and entering the library.
Parks Library at Iowa State University, undated. (University Photographs, box 258).


Today is December 21, Winter Solstice, and currently we do not have any snow on the ground. According to today’s forecast, we are expecting a wintry mix, so stay warm & travel safe everyone!

History of the Library, Pt. 4

This is the fourth and final post in our series on the history of the library at Iowa State University.  Need to catch up? Read our first, second, and third posts.

We left off last time after the second library addition in 1969.  Thus far the story of the library has been about expansion, and this post is no different.  Continuing with the trend, the library was acquiring materials rapidly to help meet the expanding student population and growth in programs at ISU.  In 1967, the library had 680,027 bound volumes.  About a decade later, that number had nearly doubled to 1,180,951 volumes.  This does not include the other collection items such as serial titles, microfilm, and maps.

Between the 2nd and 3rd addition, the library also established the Special Collections Department and the Media/Microforms Center.  The library collections were growing, straining the space in the existing library.  Additionally, with a continuously growing student population, reading and study space in the library was also quite limited.  Thus, the library needed to expand again.

The third expansion of the library was completed and opened on August 15, 1983, and largely transformed the library into what it looks like today.  The addition took place in two stages: first was the addition and second was renovating the existing building.  For example, the Periodical Room was restored while retaining its 1920s design.  Overall, the third addition added a little over 70,000 square feet of usable space.*

One major change that came about with the third addition that anyone who has seen Parks Library will recognize is the glass front of the library.

Library 3rd Addition, University photos, box 259

You may be wondering why the library is known as the Parks library.  The University President at the time of the second and third expansions was W. Robert Parks.  He and his wife (Ellen Sorge Parks) were big supporters of the library and believed a strong library was essential to a strong university.  President Parks was instrumental in securing funding for the expansion and renovation of the library.  In order to honor his and his wife’s efforts, the library was dedicated as the Parks Library in a ceremony on June 8, 1984.  A portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Parks hangs in the library; you can see it on the first floor on your way to Bookends Cafe.

Library staff putting up the Parks’ portrait in 2000, University photos, box 2043

Of course, these history of the library posts have focused on changes to the building, but a whole other set of posts could be devoted to changes in staffing, automation, and countless other changes and improvements the library has had over the years.  If you are interested in exploring more, please visit the reading room!

*Post written with the help of “A Short History of the Iowa State University Library 1858-2007” by Kevin D. Hill.



History of the Library, Pt. 3

This is the third in a series of posts about the history of the library at Iowa State.  Want to catch up? Read the first and second posts!

The library has been through many expansions through the 20th century to meet the demands of a growing student population. Iowa State had a new library in 1925, but as quickly as 1930 the collection was too large for the bookshelf space. In 1940, an off-site storage facility was built to handle some of the overflow that had been stored in the Memorial Union and the Engineering Exhibit Hall.

Lois Johnson Smith checks a request for books, University photos, box 2046

While the collection already exceeded the size of the library, there were other pressures put on the library space starting in the mid-century. The university experienced a great period of growth after WWII due to the GI Bill and the Cold War, when the government was eager to fund the scientific research done at Iowa State.  This period of growth was exacerbated by the incoming Baby Boom students.  All of these factors put great pressure on the amount of study space in the library.

To address these issues, the first expansion opened in 1961. The new addition had 5 floors and added 52,000 square feet. One big innovation for this addition was open stacks, allowing students to browse the shelves and pick out books themselves. A glass rotunda was built for the new entrance on the south side of the building complete with staffed circulation desk to make sure materials did not make their way out of the library without being checked out.

Students check out materials by the new South entrance, 1961, University photographs, box 147

Even brand new, the expanded library could only accommodate 75% of the 520,000 volume collection and did not contain the amount of study space recommended for the size of the student population. Tellingly, even as they were building the addition, it was referred to as the “First Addition”, which brings us, inevitably, to the Second Addition.

This addition was started in 1967 and completed in 1969. This expansion more than doubled the space for storing books and for users to work.*

In the 1969/70 school year, the library offered 7 courses. There were 4 undergraduate courses, each designed for students in different areas of study: home economics, sciences and humanities, engineering, and agriculture. Additionally, there were 3 courses, each aimed at different groups of graduate students.

Library staff, 1960, University photos, box 2043

Be sure to follow the blog to see the library further expand and get a name!

*Post written with the help of “A Short History of the Iowa State University Library 1858-2007” by Kevin D. Hill.

History of the Library

This is a first in a series of posts about the history of the library at Iowa State.

To kick off this series of posts about the history of the library at Iowa State, we’re going to take a look way back to nearly the founding of Iowa State University. Starting in 1868, the library was housed in Old Main. As Old Main held the entire college, it had a lot of functions including classrooms, museums, a chapel, dining halls, and housing for both faculty and students (to learn more about Old Main, visit our online exhibit). In 1880, the library had 6,000 volumes and was open from 2 pm to 9 pm. The library was run by students in the earliest days until 1876 when some professors were tasked with the double duty of scholarship and running the library. “From this time [1884] the position was added to that of women teachers in mathematics, modern language, or elocution” (pg 80, The History of Iowa State College by Earle Dudley Ross).

Old Main
Old Main, pictured 1888,  University Archives Photos

In 1891, the library was moved to Morrill Hall, which was designed to house the library and a museum.  It was in that same year that library instruction at ISU began.  Freshmen took a 1 credit course during the second term titled “Library Work.”  In 1893, the library had 10,200 volumes and was open from 8-9:30, closing over the noon and dinner hours.

Morrill Hall Library
Students studying in the library of Morrill Hall ca. 1910. University Archives Photos

Morrill Hall was the home of the library for just 23 years, and in 1914, the library was moved to Beardshear Hall, which was deemed to be more fireproof than Morrill. The library quickly outgrew all of the buildings it occupied, so plans were laid for the library to have a permanent home of its own that could hold all of the volumes in one place.

In the next post (coming in May), we’ll look at the beginning of the library in its current location (though much smaller than the library of today!)

There are many places in the archives to learn about the history of the library and other buildings on campus.  A good place to start is the online exhibit From Prairie Sod to Campus Cornerstones: Building Our Campus History or the reference books found in the reading room.  You can also check out some quick facts from the library’s website.  To dive a little deeper, look through our finding aids and records in RS 4/8/4.

A Winter’s Day on Campus #TBT

Old Main in the snow, 1899. University Photographs, RS 4/8/J, Box 348
Old Main in the snow, 1899. University Photographs, RS 4/8/J, Box 348

Winter is officially here! Whether you love it or hate it, you have to admit that the snow can be quite beautiful. This photo provides just one example. Behind the snow-frosted trees are two buildings – the English Office Building (home of the President’s Office) on the left and Old Main on the right. The English Office Building was located roughly where Carver Hall now stands.

If you want to see a great view of wintry campus while staying out of the elements, stop by our reading room! While you’re here, you can take a look materials from any of our great collections. Stay warm out there!



CyPix: Call the Fire Brigade!

This week is Fire Prevention Week. On campus, we have had a few fires over the years, most famously those of Old Main (yes, there was more than one fire in that building). After the first fire in 1900, it was repaired. However, a second fire struck in 1902 that completely destroyed the building. Beardshear Hall was built in Old Main’s place in 1908, and remains there to this day. The photo below shows Old Main on fire in 1900.

Old Main on fire, 1900. [insert collection #]
Old Main on fire, 1900. University Photographs, RS 4/8/I
The circular marks on the photo look to be water damage-related, but I like this version of the photo (there is another in our collections) because not only is the writing much more readable, but the shadowy image of a man in a hat is much more visible here. Most likely it’s a man looking on and the light from the fire created the strange appearance in the photo, but of course my first thought was “ghost.” The most important feature of the image, of course, is the blaze that destroyed the north wing of Old Main. After the building was completed, it was discovered that the building plans contained no provision for water, lighting, heat, or drainage. Poor Old Main was doomed from the beginning.

To prevent something like this from happening to your property, a list of safety tip sheets are provided online by the National Fire Protection Association. Stay safe!

ISU College of Veterinary Medicine Administrative Records Now Available!

The College of Veterinary Medicine here at ISU has a long and storied history. It the first state-funded veterinary school in the United States and continues to be a well-regarded college 136 years after its founding. It has been headquartered at multiple locations on the ISU campus and it’s current home was built just south of campus in 1976. A great deal of information on this “new” facility is available in the recently processed College of Veterinary Medicine Administrative Records, RS 14/1/8, along with general administrative correspondence, committee minutes and reports, annual reports, accreditation records, awards given out by the college, and materials regarding brucellosis.

The first building to house the vet school was South Hall in 1879. In 1881, it moved to North Hall, and in 1885 relocated to the Sanitary Building (Cranford Hall), now the site of the Memorial Union. The school’s headquarters moved to Old Agricultural Hall (now Catt Hall) in 1893 and remained there until 1912, when the Veterinary Quadrangle (now Lagomarcino Hall) was completed. The Quadrangle consisted of four buildings with a courtyard in the middle. A fifth building to the north was expanded into the Stange Memorial Clinic in 1938, now Industrial II. In 1956, the Veterinary Diagnostic Building was completed. However, by the 1950s, the Division of Veterinary Medicine, as it was known at the time, was outgrowing its facilities. It wasn’t long before plans were being made to create a new complex for what would become the College of Veterinary Medicine.

One of four sketches of plans for Physiology Administration, 1969. RS 4/1/8, map case.
One of four sketches of plans for Physiology Administration, 1969. RS 4/1/8, map case.

An early 1960s proposal entitled “Proposal for New Veterinary Medical Facilities”  (Box 26, Folder 1), outlines reasons and proposed plans for a new complex for the College of Veterinary Medicine. According to the proposal, demand for veterinarians was at the highest it had ever been at that point, and was about 3 or 4 times the supply and their was a “critical need for more veterinarians in Iowa.” Teaching facilities at the time were inadequate, and enrollment was projected to increase, the combination of which would put the college’s accreditation at risk. It pointed out that previous reports indicated that $10 million would be needed for the remodel of its established facilities and predicted that new facilities could be built for the same price. This would free up the Quadrangle for use by other colleges on campus.

It was proposed that the new facilities be built just north of the existing Veterinary Medicine Research Institute near Highway 30, and highlighted the many advantages of this location. These included proximity to existing research facilities and the nearness of Highway 30, which would better enable vets to get out to the country for emergency visits and would be more accessible to out-of-town clients. The only disadvantages addressed were the physical separation of Vet Med from other teaching facilities, isolation from the library, and the possible hindrance of interdisciplinary efforts.

Ultimately, it was concluded that the college would eventually be removed from campus. As we know, new facilities were indeed built in the proposed area. The disadvantage of the distance of the campus library was remedied by establishing the Veterinary Medicine Library at the new complex, plans for which can be found in Box 26, Folder 8. Plans for improving the Vet Med facilities evolved over the course of the 1960s, and many, many grant applications were submitted over the years, which are also in this collection.

Program for the dedication of the new facilities for the College of Veterinary Medicine, 1976. RS 4/1/8, Box 34, Folder 3.
Program for the dedication of the new facilities for the College of Veterinary Medicine, 1976. RS 4/1/8, Box 34, Folder 3.

After years of planning and securing funds, the College of Veterinary Medicine complex was completed in 1976 for $25.6 million – a notably higher price tag than initially proposed. The dedication ceremony was held on October 16, 1976 in conjunction with an academic symposium on October 15th. George C. Christensen (Vice President for Academic Affairs and former Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine) presided over the ceremony, with speeches given by Durwood L. Baker (Associate Dean, College of Veterinary Medicine), Frank K. Ramsey (Distinguished Professor, Veterinary Pathology), Mary Louise Petersen (President, State Board of Regents), and W. Robert Parks (President of Iowa State University). Philip T. Pearson (Dean, College of Veterinary Medicine), gave the acceptance speech. A map of the Vet Med complex today can be viewed here.

For more information, please come in and look through this collection and any of our other Vet Med collections. We’d love to see you!

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