Friday, members of the University’s Reserve Officers Training Corps held a small ceremony on the front lawn of North Hall to pay tribute to the building they called home for 74 years in advance of its scheduled demolition.
The building is being demolished to make room for the new 300,000-square foot Biological Science Building, approved by the University’s Board of Regents in February, which will house the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and collections from the Anthropology, Natural History, Paleontology and Zoology museums.
At the event, current and retired members of the University’s Air Force, Army and Navy ROTC units adapted the traditional Naval decommissioning ceremony, which signifies the end of a Naval ship’s active service, to mark the end of North Hall’s service to the University.
Captain Joseph Evans, professor of Naval Science and Commander of the University’s Naval ROTC, said though the building was never commissioned as a ship, it served the same symbolic purpose.
“North Hall, much like any naval ship, faithfully served us all and all of us who ever worked inside her walls knows well that it’s formed a personality all of its own, full of character and spirit,” Evans said.
He added that in a sense the building was a vessel, not for traveling on water but for the training of students.
North Hall was built between 1899 and 1900, and is the second-oldest building on campus still in use after the President’s House. From 1900 to 1922, the building served as the University’s Homeopathic Hospital. It then became the South Department Hospital after the University stopped studying homeopathy.
In the early 1940s, the building was renamed North Hall and became home to the University’s Navy ROTC program, with the University’s Army and Air Force ROTC programs joining a decade later. All three programs relocated to the Chemistry building last May.
During the ceremony, Evans highlighted several memorable moments in North Hall’s history. On December 8, 1941 — the day after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor during World War II — a local newspaper reported that more than 100 University students stood outside the commanding officer’s office to sign up to fight in the war, he said.
North Hall was also bombed three times. The first, in June 1969, was felt two miles away and broke 60 windows, though nobody was injured.
University alum Captain Phil Klintworth, an executive consultant at Tetra Tech and former professor of Naval Science who also spoke at the event, said in an interview after the ceremony that he was surprised there wasn’t more of an effort to preserve North Hall as a historic landmark. However, he added that he agreed with the regents’ decision.
“From a practical standpoint, I mean, the building is old, it certainly doesn’t meet fire codes, it’s very expensive to keep it in repair,” he said. “If I were on the Board of Regents, I’d probably make the same call.”
Commander Scott Howell, associate professor of Naval Science and Executive Officer of the University’s Naval ROTC Unit, said before the ceremony that the event was bittersweet. He added that moving forward, he would like to see the University’s ROTC program continue to thrive and increase its campus visibility.
“I’m proud of our students,” Howell said. “They’re an amazing bunch of young men and women who volunteer to serve the country, go to school — I mean, this is a tough school to get into, so they’re extremely bright, extremely intelligent.”
Correction appended: a previous version of this article misstated the name of Captain Joseph Evans.