Linton Hall, the historic building we call "home", is the oldest standing building on campus. It has a long and varied list of former occupants (including a mammoth skeleton!)
University Scholarships & Fellowships has just moved in to the newly-renovated suite 110 in Linton Hall. This will be our permanent home, and we're excited to all be in one suite in this historic campus building. This suite was formerly occupied by some staff members of the Graduate School, who moved to Chittenden Hall this fall. The Graduate School moved to Linton Hall in 1995, in what was then believed to be a temporary move from the Hannah Administration Building. The Spring 1995 issue of The Graduate Post, the newsletter of the Graduate School, included an article on the history of Linton Hall. The article was written by then-Professor and Chair of the Department of Art Linda O. Stanford, PhD. Professor Stanford would later go on to serve the university as Associate Provost for Academic Services prior to her retirement.
The above photo is a postcard dated 1910, featuring Linton Hall when it served as the campus library and museum. Courtesy MSU Archives & Historical Collections.
Here is the history of Linton Hall, through 1995, in the words of Professor Stanford:
- 1881- Marsh, Arnold, and supervising architect Appleyard
- 1947- Bowd-Munson
If you are not certain how to find Linton Hall, just look for a brick building with a tower at its west entrance and a beautifully carved oak tympanum at its east (West Circle Drive) entrance. This tympanum depicts the Michigan State College (now, university) seal including Old College Hall (1857-1918), the first building in the United States erected for the teaching of scientific agriculture.
Linton Hall, the oldest academic building on campus, is surpassed in age only by Cowles House (1857). Its date, 1881, and its original planned use as “library-museum” are documented by the limestone relief over its west doors. Significantly, this entrance faces important historical markers: Beaumont Tower, the open “sacred space” where the initial buildings of Michigan State were erected over a century ago, and the paved walkway that is the predecessor of West Circle Drive. If you stand at this west entrance and look to the left (south), you will see a stone horse-trough-and-drinking-fountain, donated by the Class of 1900. Horses used to drink in front of what we know as Linton Hall and the MSU Museum.
Originally, Linton Hall was designed as a T-shaped High Victorian Romanesque building at a cost of $22,000. Its exterior textural variety as evidenced in the brick, buff Indiana limestone, Michigan fieldstone, granite, and wood, adds visual complexity and thereby reflects Victorian taste. In 1947, the approximately $300,000 three-story Collegiate Gothic-inspired addition was completed to extend the building plan in the form of a capital “I.” Although the addition complements the original architectural design the interior design is quite unusual because the original 1881 portion is two stories high and the 1947 addition is three stories high. Therefore, once inside, it is possible to ascend one of the longest staircases on campus and arrive on a level that, simultaneously, is both the 2nd and the 3rd floor!
The history of who the occupants of Linton Hall have been reflects campus history. The 1881-82 Annual Catalog of the State Agricultural College of Michigan includes a description of the new building and reveals that even from its earliest days there were multiple inhabitants. The “new brick building contain[s] the first-floor offices for the President and Secretary, and a library and reading room. The second story is occupied by the general museum, lecture room, study, and laboratory for the department of Zoology and Entomology.” Professors Cook and Fairchild, who had worked assiduously with the legislature to gain support for the building, were disappointed when, after the appropriation was received, President Abbot decided to move the President’s office from College Hall to the new Library-Museum. Interestingly, the space selected for the Presidents’ office was contiguous with the library reading room and easily accessed by folding doors to create a symbolic liaison between the office of a college president and the reflective scholarly realm. By 1913-14, building occupancy was essentially the same, although the need for space had become critical. Only one third of the building could be devoted to the burgeoning library collection. In response to this need, in 1927, a new library building, now known as the MSU Museum building, was completed, making it possible to move the library collections. The President’s office was moved to the second floor and a conference room for the State Board of Agriculture (now known as the Board of Trustees) was created. Today, these rooms are the Office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Letters. The conference room, with its magnificent stucco ceiling, has just been restored by the College to its pre-1950s splendor.
By 1937, according to the Michigan State College Record, the first floor of the building which was by-then known as the Administration Building, housed the college (Michigan State College) treasurer’s office, the accounting division, the registrar’s office, and the purchasing and stenographic departments. The second floor housed a zoology lab and lecture rooms which by 1942-43 had been transformed into space for summer school, orientation and general curriculum offices. Then, in 1947, a sorely needed addition was built to accommodate expanding administrative needs. In late 1968-early 1969, with the new John A. Hannah Administration Building complete, the building was vacated and, overnight, the building we know as Linton Hall became the “Old Administration Building,” housing the Office of the Ombudsman, the Department of Psychiatry, information services for the Department of Biology and Medicine, the undergraduate office of the College of Social Science, an instructional media training center, mathematics offices, and the office of the American Association of University Professors. In the 1970s and later, there were new occupants such as the College of Arts and Letters, the Departments of Journalism, Philosophy, Religious Studies, the offices of Women’s Studies, and University Relations and, more recently, the Center for the Integrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities and several Arts and Letters interdisciplinary graduate programs. This academic year, with the departure of University Relations, the Graduate School was able to move to some of the very spaces originally occupied by the President, the Secretary of the Board of Agriculture, the library, and the reading room.
In May 1969, the Board of Trustees approved the re-naming of the Old Administration Building as Robert S. Linton Hall after an honored alumnus, Robert S. Linton (Class of 1916), who taught vocational agriculture in Owosso. In the 1920s, he returned to direct the on-campus vocational agriculture program. In 1937, he moved to the “Administration Building” as the assistant registrar and then as a registrar who updated office procedures significantly. In 1939, when the perforated IBM enrollment card was virtually unknown on other campuses, he introduced its use.
Beneath the surface of Linton Hall, there are many evidences of times past…paint layers, cast-iron columns, and oak floors. If the walls could speak, there would be vital discussions and important decisions to be reheard. Today, physical and academic changes continue to occur. An elevator is being installed to render the building accessible and new programs and initiatives are being planned.
When you walk past or enter Linton Hall you have a rare opportunity to experience the flavor of the past in the campus context of today’s activities and tomorrow’s aspirations.