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Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

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Welcome to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library blog! As the special collections and archives library at the University of Kansas, Spencer is home to remarkable and diverse collections of rare and unique items. Explore the blog to learn about the work we do and the materials we collect.

That’s Distinctive!: KU Campus Tour, Then and Now

Check the blog each Friday for a new “That’s Distinctive!” post. I created the series because I genuinely believe there is something in our collections for everyone, whether you’re writing a paper or just want to have a look. “That’s Distinctive!” will provide a more lighthearted glimpse into the diverse and unique materials at Spencer – including items that many people may not realize the library holds. If you have suggested topics for a future item feature or questions about the collections, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

This week on That’s Distinctive! I am taking you on a little tour of KU’s campus via the C. J. Moore collection. Dating from 1893 to 1946, the collection of prints and glass plate negatives follow Moore’s photography through many places in Kansas. This week I am sharing scans of Moore’s glass plate negatives of campus buildings from 1894. Since many buildings on campus have been rebuilt, I thought it might be fun to show the buildings as they stand today as well.

First up, Old Fraser Hall. Built in 1872, the first Fraser Hall (originally named the New Building and later University Building) was built of limestone with signature towers and a red roof. According to KU’s online place directory, the first Fraser was “designed by John G. Haskell and housed virtually all university departments, administrative offices, a chapel/theater, lecture halls, classrooms and, at various times in its basement and attic, gymnasiums.” By the early 1960s the stability of the building was greatly concerning, and authorization of the building’s replacement was granted in 1962. Construction of the new Fraser Hall began in 1965 and in 1967 the building (which was more the twice the size of Old Fraser Hall) opened about 50 feet west and just north of the original building.

Next up, Old Blake Hall. Named after physics professor Lucien I. Blake, it opened just south of Fraser Hall on the hill in 1895. KU’s place directory notes that, “with its steep roofs, turreted façade and giant tower clock peering across campus like an all-seeing cyclops, the original Blake had the distinction of being one of the most unique buildings on Mount Oread.” By 1963, the building had been empty for several years and could not be renovated; it was also torn down. Present-day Blake Hall opened in 1964 and was also double the size of the original building.

Next on the tour is Spooner Hall. Opened in 1894, Spooner is the only building highlighted today that has not been demolished and rebuilt. Originally opened as a library, Spooner has housed many campus departments and facilities. In 2010, renovations were done on the exterior of the building to clean, waterproof, and repair any damage. Spooner Hall was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

And the final stop on this brief tour of campus buildings is Old Snow Hall. It opened in 1886 and resided in the northwest corner of the Watson Library lawn. Snow Hall had seriously deteriorated by the mid 1920s, and it was eventually demolished in 1934. New Snow Hall opened in 1930 further west on Jayhawk Boulevard. In the 1950s the building was renovated to add additional wings with a major renovation in 1989 to add more classrooms and offices.  

Colorful map of the KU Campus showing buildings and other landmarks accompanied by captions.
“A Plan of the Campus of the University of Kansas” by Marjorie Whitney, a KU student in the Department of Design, 1926. University Archives. Call Number: RG 0/24. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Tiffany McIntosh
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