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Wisconsin National Register of Historic Places

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Science Hall, detail (DHP photo)

Science Hall, detail (DHP photo)

Science Hall (DHP photo)

550 North Park Street, Madison, Dane County
Architect: Henry C. Koch, altered by Allen D. Conover
Date of construction: 1887

The University of Wisconsin Science Hall was constructed in 1887 to house the university's science-related programs. Until 1890 it was just one of three instructional facilities on campus. Among the first departments to utilize the building were Engineering, Physics, Mineralogy and Geology, and Zoology.

The building, which sits at the bottom of Bascom Hill, is Romanesque Revival Style. It is U-shaped, of three stories and features walls of red pressed brick laid in common bond. It consists of a series of classrooms, offices, laboratories and reading rooms. Science Hall was originally designed by Milwaukee architect Henry C. Koch (1841-1910) but the plans were altered by Allen D. Conover (1854-1919) a Professor of Civil Engineering.

Old Science Hall was destroyed by fire in 1884, consequently the new building was designed to be fireproof. Conover insisted that hollow clay tile and additional iron and steel columns be used in the construction of Science Hall to make the building as fireproof as possible. Conover's alterations to the original plan increased the cost of the building putting financial strain on the university. However, in April 1887 the legislature reluctantly agreed to grant an additional $175,000 to complete the project and liquidate the Regents' debt. The total cost of Science Hall is estimated to have been $285,000.

Since it was opened in 1888, this building has been home to many great scientific scholars and educators. Among them were the prominent geologists Charles R. Van Hise (1857-1918) and Thomas C. Chamberlin (1843-1928). Both men made great contributions to the science of geology and gained national attention and recognition for their work done in Science Hall.

Today Science 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.


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