North Hall (J. Sewell photo, 2002)
North Hall circa 1880 (WHS Archives, place files, Madison UW.488)
University of Wisconsin campus, Madison, Dane County
Architect: John F. Rague
Date of Construction: 1851
The University of Wisconsin was established after the passage of an act of July 26, 1848 by the Wisconsin legislature. The initial plan by Chancellor John H. Lathrop, developed in 1850, called for a quadrangle flanked by four dormitory buildings with a large central building at the top of the hillside site. The original drawings, by architect John F. Rague are now lost. North Hall, originally called North Dormitory, was the first building to be completed on campus. It contained the entire university for four years.
This plain, rectangular building, built of locally quarried sandstone is typical of the simple classically derived designs seen in many early Wisconsin institutional buildings. For many years it served as a dormitory with the top floor dedicated to classrooms. After a fire in 1884 destroyed the main classroom, the building was converted into offices and classrooms. The building has served as a home to various departments and is now home to the Political Science Department.
Today North Hall sits among the older portion of the large, now modern University of Wisconsin campus. It is a working building and is open to the public during regular school hours.