Preserving Francis Hall

There is much interest in architectural preservation in North Dakota these days, so it’s interesting that already back in 1923, there was concern about losing a historic building at the North Dakota Agricultural College in Fargo. The building was Francis Hall, the second building constructed on the campus. It was built in 1893 at a cost of $17,000 and originally served as a dormitory; it had 28 rooms housing 56 students, along with a dining room, a reception area, and space for the “department of domestic economy.”

The building was converted into classrooms and laboratories in 1899, when enrollment increased, and was named after O.W. Francis, a former President of the NDAC Board of Directors.

President Shepperd, the NDAC President from 1929 to 1937, said, “many pranks and stunts were played at Francis Hall.”

One story he told was of some pranksters bedding down a two-month-old calf in the dormitory bathroom for the Matron, Mrs. M.F. Holderman, to discover. President Shepperd said he never did learn “how the beast got in there.”

Shepperd later decided the crowning achievement came when Art Fowler and Lee Greene’s class stole a roasted turkey from the domestic science department oven and got away without being caught. “I have seen many daredevil deeds perpetrated by students,” he said, “but that of stealing a roasted turkey hot from the oven while the cook’s back was turned leads all others which have come to my notice.”

In 1959, the ND Legislature appropriated $76,000 to renovate Francis Hall, but Pres. Fred Hultz convinced the 1961 legislature to instead demolish it.

Where a portion of Francis Hall used to stand is now Hultz Hall – named for the man who pushed for the historic building’s demise.

“Dakota Datebook” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council. See all the Dakota Datebooks at prairiepublic.org, subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast, or buy the Dakota Datebook book at shopprairiepublic.org.

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