Science Hall (built 1893, razed 1949)

Originally submitted by: Erica Skuta, Drake University, Nov 3, 2010

Original Photo of the Science Hall - Cowles Library, Drake University

Origin of the Building:

Science Hall was constructed in 1893. It was located on University Ave, where the old trolley route used to run. Science Hall was one of the two original buildings that made up Drake University, the other being Old Main. The building was known as Science Hall from its construction but in 1913 it was renamed Sage Hall[1] . Numerous renovations were made during its existence to accommodate the multiple courses that were taught in its confines. The purpose of Science Hall was to facilitate science laboratories, such as: chemical, zoological, bacteriological, histological, and physiological. It also served as an observatory in the early years of its existence. In 1949, the building was razed due to the completion of Harvey Ingham Hall of Science and Fitch Hall of Pharmacy [2].

Deconstruction of Science Hall (1949) - "In Celebration of a Century"
Significant History:

Throughout the 56 years of Science (Sage) Hall’s existence it served hundreds of science and pharmacy students with its many laboratories and lecture halls. Its architecture was very unique and if it still stood today it would undoubtedly be considered a significant historical building. Numerous renovations were made during its existence to refurbish the building and to make space for the ever growing science program. Significant events that involved Science Hall were:
  • In 1915, the entrance was repapered and varnished. Although the falling plaster and spider webs added to the stereotype of a science building, administration decided that renovations were necessary to preserve the building[3].
  • Science Hall was offered to the United States Government to be an experiment station during World War I. A government inspector came to observe the location on April 13, 1917, but the laboratories would not be utilized until the summer if the location was used[4].
  • The 8 ½ inch refractive telescope that had been donated by General Francis Marion Drake and had resided in the upper part of Science Hall was moved in 1921 to the Drake Municipal Observatory. The move was necessary because the smoke from surrounding industries began to block the view of the sky[1].
  • In 1922, Biology classes taught by Dr. Ross were not as they appeared. A satirical entry in the Quax(Drake’s yearbook) revealed that classes consisted of previously recorded lectures that were being shown on “reel" [5].
  • In December of 1937 a portion of the road between University and Carpenter avenues were to be closed for the building of the new science building. It was foreseen at this time that the new science building would be constructed by 1939[6].
    Map of Drake's Campus about 1940 - "In Celebration of a Century"
  • Renovations of Science Hall to accommodate the newly added college of pharmacy began in March of 1939. The north side of the building was equipped to facilitate the advanced chemistry classes and new tables, better pluming and more storage space was added. The main floor biology classroom remained the main lecture hall for biology courses[7]. In addition, the basement was completely remodeled to contain four new laboratories and a dispensing room for biology courses. The strategic planning for the renovations made it possible to more efficiently fit students in the classrooms. Even though the reconstruction would result in about a third less floor space, the amount of students in each classroom would be able to increase. The previous set up had been inefficient and caused problems. But this new seating arrangement would prove to be advantageous for the professors and students[8].
  • Science Hall was scheduled to be razed on June 1, 1949. The equipment from the laboratories was sold at a sale on May 9, 1949 and all salvageable equipment was saved and transferred to other locations on campus. Science Hall was permanently destroyed and the classes once held there were dispersed to numerous other buildings. There is only grass and sidewalks were the old Science Hall used to stand, but pictures keep its memory alive[9].
1898 view across University Ave. - Science Hall (left) and Old Main (right) - "In Celebration of the Century"



[1] Iowa Heritage Collection, . (2005). Drake university, science hall. Retrieved from,190
[2] Science hall and astronomical observatory. (1911).Drake University Record, 1.
[3] Renovate science hall entrance. (1915, January 28).The Times Delphic, 4.
[4] Sage hall is offered government by drake. (1917, April 15). The Times Delphic, 1.
[5] Biology department booms. (1922).The Quax, 288.
[6] Street closing to make space for new science hall. (1937, December 3). The Times Delphic, 1
[7] Work started on Science Hall. (1939, March 14). The Times Delphic, 6.
[8] Laboratories - scientific planning enlarges science hall space. (1939, March 21). The Times Delphic, 2.
[9] Old science building to be razed. (1949, April 22). The Times Delphic, 5.
[10] Drake University, . (1980).In Celebration of a Century, 16, 32, 42.