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Administration Building (Old)

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Stephens Bros.



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By the turn of the century, the University had expanded its enrollment and programs into more than six buildings. University Hall, an on-going embarrassment, continued to house administrative offices as well as the campus post office, many classrooms, and the YMCA and YWCA. In the first decade of the 20th century, with improved funding from the legislature, the University was able to add several new buildings, including the Administration Building.

Thomas R. Kimball, a well established architect working in Omaha, was retained to complete drawings for the Administration Building in June of 1903. Kimball had made a name for himself through his work as principal designer of the Trans-Mississippi Exposition held in Omaha in 1898. In 1901 he had designed the highly successful Hall County Courthouse, and was overseeing the construction of one of the greatest buildings of his career, Omaha's Saint Cecelia's Cathedral.

After Kimball was hired to work on the Adminstration Building he informed the head of the building committee, Regent Carl J. Ernst, in a letter dated Sept. 12, 1903, that it would be "impossible to meet the requirements called for in a suitable building for the sum provided. Any building that will house the departments as asked by the Secretary (Dales) should cost nearly double the sum appropirated. If built for the sum appropriated it will be a barn simply."

At a meeting of the Building Committee in May, 1903, the regents indicated that "the new Administration Building be located on the south front of the campus between the walks at the intersection of 11th and on or near the property line; that said building be designed without reference to an auditorium annex; to be two stories, low, a ground floor and second floor only, without a basement story, and to be of attractive architectural features; that a suitable driveway may be laid from R street around the building with a covered approach and entrance at the rear."

Kimball submitted plans to Regent Ernst, Chairman of the Building Committee, in Feb 1904, describing the building as "a simple structure, as economic in construction as is possible for the purposes intended, and I believe absolutely limited to the least space that will accomodate the requirements laid down by the Regents." Plans were accepted in August 1904.

In November of 1904 all bids were opened and all exceeded the amount allocated for construction of the building. Chancellor Andrews and Regent Ernst met with Kimball to discuss ways of reducing the cost of the structure. At this time the stone exterior was changed to brick with terra cotta trim replacing stone. The building site was moved to the north and east as well, with a small circular drive on the south.

The rejected bids were resubmitted by contractors with less expensive building materials. Stephens Brothers were awarded the bid for $38,936. Delays in the arrival of the terra cotta held up construction of the building. A local brick shortage also delayed construction. The building was finally completed in the spring of 1906. In an effort to save on costs, a temporary roof was constructed and remained until at least 1919.

The design Kimball chose for the Administration Building was not as simple as his letter to the Regents' Building Committee implied. Although the form of the building was a simple rectangle, the embellished columns and the classical pediment reveal Kimball's formal Beaux Arts training and experience working in the classical tradition. The Administration Building, in 1905, represents the first classical revival structure on campus. This starts a trend that continues until post WWII modernism becomes the norm.

Kimball appears to have been involved in the campus improvements going on in 1903-1904, and possibly did a plan during the Canfield administration as well.

The Administration Building was razed in 1963. This was done to provide a clearer view into campus, and of the new Woods Art Building in particular. The Sheldon Gallery Sculpture Garden was developed on the site a few years later.

Source Information:
Sources: 1/1/1 b16f129; 17th bien rpt 1903/04; 1/1/1 b17f130 contract with arch.; 1/1/1 b17f133; Regents minutes.