Wright Hall turns 100

Wright Hall, located near Rod Library, was named after a former Iowa State Normal School professor.


Wright Hall is a part of the legacy of UNI, as familiar to students as the Campanile, and the building is about to celebrate its 100th birthday.

According to the UNI website, construction for Wright Hall began in 1915 and was completed in 1917, with the total cost reaching $109,566. According to Associate Professor of Mathematics Russell Campbell, in 1957, the building was named David Sands Wright Hall in honor of David Sands Wright, one of the first two professors at what was then the Iowa State Normal School.

“60 years ago, it was named for David Sands Wright, who taught for 50 years,” Campbell said. “Wright was one of the original faculty of the university, and he actually taught the first class at the university, which was an English class.”

Campbell went on to say that Wright Hall was the 13th building built on campus. However, many of the older buildings are no longer in existence.

“Wright Hall is older than any of the dormitories, the Campanile and various other modern buildings,” Campbell said. “However, the auditorium and the physics building are older, and so is Sabin.”

According to Campbell, Lang Hall was formerly known as the Auditorium Building. It then became known as the Old Auditorium.

The exterior of Wright Hall remains nearly the same today, even 100 years after it was first built.

An elevator was added for the convenience of students; however, the stairwells are original. According to Campbell, the building was majorly renovated 25 years ago, and due to the cost, this mostly involved installing air conditioning and improved windows.

According to Campbell, the functions of the building were the primary improvements, not the structure. The bottom floor has bearing walls, as well as twenty inches of concrete floor, so it was left alone. Walls were, however, moved on the upper floors to make offices for the professors. 

“They mainly put in better windows and air conditioning,” Campbell said. “They also wired the building for computers. The structure of the building is basically unchanged […]  because of the air conditioning, they weren’t able to put in the skylights that were originally in the building.”

When the building was first opened, the ground floor housed agriculture and the first floor held manual training. The second floor held domestic science, commonly known as home economics, and the top floor was for art.

“Wright Hall was built back when the state had good support for the university,” Campbell said. “They had a millage tax for 15 years, and this was the last of the buildings that was built under that.”

The millage tax was a property tax placed on the construction of new buildings on the three campuses in Iowa. UNI’s millage tax was $1 for every $10,000 spent on construction.

Today, the building houses the mathematics department, however there are still some computer science laboratories in the building, according to the UNI website.

To celebrate Wright Hall turning 100, there will be an open house held on Saturday, Oct. 7. The open house will start at 9:30 am and will finish at 1:00 pm, with a brief ceremony being held at 10:00 am in honor of the building and David Sands Wright.

During the ceremony, a couple of classrooms will be named after faculty members in honor of their time at UNI. These are Professors Augusta Louise Schurrer, who taught mathematics for 47 years, and Bonnie Helen Litwiller, who taught mathematics for 35 years.

“The purpose of the open house is to celebrate 100 years of Wright Hall,” Campbell said. “It’s to acknowledge the past.”