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   from the issue of February 3, 2005

A Piece of University History

This bell sat atop the first building at the University of Nebraska - University Hall. Construction on this ill-fated buildling began just a few months after the university was founded in 1869. University Hall represented the aspirations of the local and state community and developed from an idea "that the new state needed an institution of cultural learning; it was built for farmers and frontiersmen who sought for their children the culture which the centuries had accumulated," according to the 1925 Cornhusker Annual.



The cornerstone was placed on Sept. 23, 1869, and celebrated with speeches and a banquet with more than 1,000 guests.

Despite its celebratory beginnings, U-Hall also garnered criticism because of the cost of building the structure. Nebraska had just recently achieved statehood and many Lincoln residents believed the plans for the university had developed too hastily.

The original proposal for building U-Hall gave a cost of $128,000 and the final cost increased to $152,000 before construction ended.

In 1871, the first classes were held in U-Hall, when six faculty members provided instruction to about 20 students. The building housed administration, a recitation hall, student classes, a boys dormitory, the library, and a chapel. For 15 years, it was the only building on campus.

University Hall suffered from faulty construction from the moment the doors of the building were opened. The building was immediately declared unsafe and three professional architects were employed to examine it. Their report, which came out in June 1871, pronounced the structure safe and classes began as scheduled in September 1871. Six years later, the north wing of the building was abandoned and a second team of architects examined the structure. This team declared the building unsafe and proposed a complete new building. While the University Board of Regents resolved to build a new building, Lincoln citizens were reluctant about the idea. They did not want to chance a decision to move the university to a different city.

Architects from Chicago and Dubuque declared the building could be repaired with a new foundation. Lincoln took on the cost of the new foundation and a new roof.

The early repairs kept the building in use until 1925, when it was declared structurally unsafe. The top floors of the building were removed. The damage to the original foundation, and deficiencies in the materials used to construct the building added to its demise. The last classes were held in 1948 and the building was razed later that year to make way for Ferguson Hall.

The bell now sits at the Wick Center.

In this weekly feature, the Scarlet takes a look back at a moment of UNL's past through a historical photo, story or short trivia item.

Information for "A Piece of University History" is provided by the University Archives and Special Collections, University Libraries. For more information or to suggest a topic for this feature, call 472-8844.



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