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The University of Idaho Library's


Photograph Collection

Documenting the history of the UI Campus

Administration Building (Old) , 1891-1906 (Destroyed by fire March 30, 1906)

Architect:G.W. Babcock (Walla Walla)

Cost: $131,068

History: With an exterior of red brick and an interior of California redwood and native tamarack, the Old Administration building (commonly called the Old Admin) was the center of the University of Idaho campus during its first years in operation. more ... The building consisted of three-stories with a basement, cost $131,068, and included a steeple on the central section that stood 168 feet.

Like its successor (the New Admin) the Old Admin building took a "U" shape utilizing a main section, an East wing, and a West wing. In the 1901-02 University Catalog, the building's amenities were described as "commodious" and its pipes were apparently "supplied with artesian water". The 1893-94 University Catalog described the Old Admin as "the most attractive building in Idaho."

Construction on the building was completed in 1892. In 1896, the first four graduates of UI received their degrees in its Auditorium. Sadly, the Old Admin would not stand for long.

In the very early morning hours of March 30, 1906, the Old Admin was fully engulfed in flames. Through the combined efforts of administration, faculty, staff, and students some small pieces of the University of Idaho's beginnings were saved. Dean Jay Glover Eldridge climbed a ladder into his office and threw entire drawers of documents to Judge Roland Hodgins (pioneer and proprietor of Hodgin's Drug Store) who then gathered them from where they fluttered. Students managed to save the "Silver and Gold Book" which was a jeweled box gifted to the University from the women of Moscow and a stuffed mountain goat. The university library was housed in the Old Admin and the majority of the books Miss Belle Sweet the University Librarian had managed to organize were lost. President James A. MacLean, a volunteer with the West Side Hose Company No. 4, could do nothing but watch as the heart of the UI campus was lost. As light came the next day, the once attractive edifice of education was nothing more than a blackened skeletal walls and wet rubble. A feeling of mourning descended on the UI campus. Although arson was suspected nothing was ever proven.

In the wake of the fire, classes and offices were relocated to other buildings in Moscow and on campus. The insurance received for the burned building ($135,000) came, but was not enough to replace the Old Admin. President MacLean, with the can-do spirit of Idaho made a gamble. Instead of replacing the Old Admin with insufficient funds he proposed to build Morrill Hall, a building dedicated to agriculture of the state and local region, as a place-holder in between administration buildings. It worked. Morrill Hall was built and function as the center of campus for a short period. Three years after the destruction of the Old Admin, the main section of the New Admin was completed.

In 1932 (UI's fortieth year), President Mervin G. Neale and Congressman Burton French (an UI alumnus) gathered pieces of the Old Admin steps. These were integrated into the Memorial Stepsand benches to the south of the New Admin's main entrance and stand today as an ode to the indomitable spirit of UI.

Location: 46.724869,-117.010698 | On site of present administration building, facing N.E. instead of due east
Description: Four stories, red brick, 180' x 122', central portion and two wings, 163' tower.
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Additions: East wing completed in 1899; auditorium and third floor completed 1900; west wing completed in 1902
Use History: Administrative offices and classroom building
Date Notes: West wing completed in 1892
Sources: Cards, UG 44, Beacon, Petersen, Facilities Architecture Drawing Archives

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