U of A Old Main
100 Campus Drive
Fayetteville AR 72701
Old Main, the oldest building on campus, is the "mother" of all the
other buildings of the University of Arkansas. Initially it was called
"the University building." In 1895, it was given a name that lasted
the longest-University Hall-although for many years thereafter it was
affectionately called "Old Main." The Board of Trustees corrected this
in 1991 when, after a major renovation, it officially changed the
name to Old Main.
The construction of University Hall, completed in 1875, set a seal of
permanence on the University. The building was constructed of local
materials by the firm of Mayes and Oliver, under the close supervision
of Judge Lafayette Gregg of Fayetteville. In its long life, it has
housed many academic departments and administrative functions, as well
as a gymnasium, a chapel, the University Museum, the University
Library, and the campus bookstore. Its imposing appearance and
hillside location make it an icon of learning for the entire state.
After Arkansas Industrial University began classes in January 1872 in
hastily built frame buildings, the University's Board made plans to
construct a permanent, substantial building. These plans were delayed
by the failure of the federal government to issue land scrip (whereby
land-grant colleges were funded). In April 1873, the land-scrip income
was finally received and invested in Fayetteville and Washington County
bonds, thus making $121,333 available for building purposes. The
structure was based on plans that architect John M. Van Osdel of
Chicago had drawn for the main building at the Illinois Industrial
University. On July 4, 1873, the low bid of $123,855 of Mayes and
Oliver of Fayetteville was accepted. The architectural style is
Second Empire, with a Mansard roof forming the top story. The south
tower has a concave silhouette, while the north tower has an ogee
silhouette. On all four sides of the south tower are large round areas
designed to be clock faces. These towers were reversed from the
Illinois plan so that the "clock tower" could be closer to the city
of Fayetteville for better viewing. No clocks were ever installed,
however. (A clock was installed in the South Tower in recent years).
Old Main is a survivor. It withstood major fires in October 1905,
August 1919, and October 1940. It was the first Fayetteville structure
to be entered in the National Register of Historic Places in June 1970
and among the first in Arkansas to be so designated.
Despite regular maintenance, by the 1960s Old Main was rapidly
deteriorating. What fire had not done, weather, rot, moisture, and
termites were doing in earnest. In 1971, the Fort Smith firm of Mott,
Mobley, McGowan & Griffin was hired to renovate and rehabilitate
Old Main, a process that took 20 years. The exterior of the building
underwent stabilization and repair, but funding delays forced its
evacuation. In 1985, the Arkansas Legislature appropriated $4 million
if the University could raise the remainder. Under Chancellor Dan
Ferritor, a fund raising campaign, "Bring Old Main Back to Life,"
generated $6 million in two years. A comprehensive renovation began
in 1989 and was completed by the spring of 1991, restoring the building
to full elegance and beauty. At that time, Old Main was rededicated
and given over to the J. William Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences.
U of A website - Historic Buildings
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