University Museums

Title: Central Hall [Beardshear Hall]
Name: Architectural Drawing
Date: 1905
Medium: Drawing on paper
Country/Culture: American
Classification: Drawings
Credit Line: Transfer from the Architecture Department. In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Location: Iowa State University, Knoll
Object Number: U2018.198
More Information
Central Building (Beardshear Hall) was completed in 1906 a few feet south of the site of the original College Building (Main), so that as viewed from central campus, the new building would not obscure Engineering Hall II (Marston). The choice of the Corinthian architectural order, the most elaborate architectural order, expresses the fact that this building contained the executive offices of the college president and the Board of Trustees. With the added height of its domed central mass, the building appropriately dominates central campus. At the entrance, the tall portico, massive staircase, and elaborate flanking electric candelabra add to the effect. The light enhanced the building’s prominence at night. Part of the lavish architectural treatment within the building was the spacious three-story-high internal court, which was large enough to accommodate the whole student body at registration time. Marble and imitation marble, ornate ironwork, suspended free-standing stairways, and art-glass skylights embellished it.

The departments of English, Modern Languages, Civics, Mathematics, Economic Science, Public Speaking, History, and Botany also occupied Central Building. President Albert Storms described it as “an inspiration to the thousands of young men and women that will go in and out of its halls,” and “a worthy monument to the generosity, enterprise and high educational ideals of the people of Iowa.” It gives one pause to compare Central Building with what the first trustees of Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm wanted for the College Building a half century earlier: “[A] good school [building] rather than a display of architectural beauty—no costly dome or curious winding stairs—but a solid stone foundation, a plain brick superstructure… all of good respectable appearance, about good enough for the farmers of our State, and good enough for anyone else.” The times and the college had obviously changed. Central Building was the symbol of a college now of national eminence in agricultural education and research. In 1938 the building was renamed Beardshear Hall, a fitting recognition of President Beardshear’s role in raising the college’s national reputation.