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University of Wyoming’s Oldest Buildings – The Top 5

(Photo Courtesy of Adam Porter)
Ever wonder which building is the oldest on campus? From the names alone, Old Main would be a good guess (and a correct one). However, you might not be able to tell which buildings are the next oldest (at least my roommates, both UW students, couldn’t). So here is the run-down of the oldest buildings on campus.

(Photo Courtesy of Adam Porter)
(Photo Courtesy of Adam Porter)


Old Main



You should be able to tell the oldest building on campus because of its name. Old Main, built in 1887 (and renovated in 1949, 1970s), is listed as a National Historic Site. When it was built in 1887, it cost less than $50,000 (in contrast to the new $55 million College of Business renovation and expansion). Originally, Old Main contained the entire university, including the administration, gym, library (with 300 books), ballroom, classrooms, and science labs. Old Main even predates Wyoming’s statehood; consequently, the front of the building reads “Wyoming University” instead of University of Wyoming. Inside, you can find a stain-glass window with the seal of the Wyoming territory. The original class has 42 students and seven faculty members. Tuition was $7. President Theodore Roosevelt spoke from the west porch of Old Main in 1903. Today, instead of housing the whole university, Old Main houses the offices of the president, and vice presidents, Board of Trustees Board Room, University Legal Counsel, and Cowboy Parents.


(Photo Courtesy of Adam Porter)
(Photo Courtesy of Adam Porter)


Geological Museum and Samuel H. Knight Geology Building



The second oldest building on campus is the Geological Museum and the Samuel H. Knight Geology Building. Built in 1902 (with an addition in 1920), this building was named for Samuel Knight, who was the son of Emma Knight (for whom Knight Hall was later named after) and Wilbur C. Knight, a Geology professor. Samuel Knight followed in his father footsteps and became a geology professor and eventually the department head. Knight was a gifted lecturer and scholar, and he made the Geology Department nationally known. He is also featured in “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” because he was able to draw a perfect circle–freehand. He also designed and worked on the famous T-Rex statue outside the Geology Department. (The statue is built to scale).


(Photo Courtesy of Adam Porter)
(Photo Courtesy of Adam Porter)


Merica Hall



The third oldest building on campus is Merica Hall, built in 1908. It was the first residence hall on campus, housing women. Merica hall was built as a women’s only residence hall because parents and guardians were worried about sending their daughters to school without having a gender-specific, institutionalized living arrangement. The many north-facing windows in the hall were originally used as “stadium seating” as the women leaded out from the windows to watch the men play football on the original UW football field, just on the north side of Merica Hall. Merica Hall was named for Charles Merica, the 8th president of UW. Currently, Merica Hall houses the Honors Program, Facilities Planning, and Environmental Health and Safety.


(Photo Courtesy of Adam Porter)
(Photo Courtesy of Adam Porter)


Hoyt Hall



Built in 1915, Hoyt Hall is the fourth oldest building on campus. Hoyt Hall was originally built as a women’s residence hall. Today, the women’s rooms have become offices as mainly English and modern language professors have filled the rooms with desks, books, and coffee stains. The hall was named after John Wesley Hoyt who was the first president of the university, as well as the territorial governor. Within Hoyt Hall is Mathison Library, which has a collection of specialty books. Included in this collection is an original collection of Robert Frost works. Frost also visited Mathison Library in 1939.


(Photo Courtesy of Adam Porter)
(Photo Courtesy of Adam Porter)


Aven Nelson Building



The fifth oldest building is the Aven Nelson Building, built in 1924. The building was named for the 10th president for UW, who was also one of the original faculty members at UW. Nelson was a botanist, and he founded the Rocky Mountain Herbarium, which now houses the largest collection of dried plants in the world (561,000 specimens). Currently, it houses the Botany Department. But before Botany moved in, the Aven Nelson building housed the UW Library and the Law School until their respective buildings were built. The Aven Nelson building also houses the Lewis O. and Terura P. Williams Botany Conservatory, which contains over 500 living specimens.


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