University of Wisconsin Science Hall

Madison, Wisconsin | C.1888

Photo Credit: Justin R. Hernandez

The historic Science Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is more than just a pretty building. It has also been associated with many prominent scientists, and helped to cement the university as one of the nation’s leading geology schools. 

Milwaukee architect Henry C. Koch, designed the three-story hall in a Romanesque Revival style. However, Allan D. Conover, a professor of civil engineering at the school altered the design slightly during construction. 

Roofs were originally slate, but were replaced with asphalt shingles in 1992. A terra cotta hip roll decorates the towers below the roofs, and 16 brick chimneys throughout the building all feature corbelled tops.

When completed in 1888, Science Hall was one of three instructional facilities at the University. Courses offered at the time included geology, anatomy, geography, physiology, zoology, botany, physics, engineering, meteorology, and agriculture.

Perhaps the most famous scientist educated at Science Hall was Charles R. Van Hise, “who led the Department of Mineralogy and Geology to national prominence” and then served as president of the university. Van Hise also served as a consulting geologist for the United States Geological Survey and was the president of several other scientific societies.

The Science Hall was declared a National Historic Monument in 1993, and is part of the Bascom Hill Historic District. The building is still in use, and students occasionally discover artifacts from the buildings past. Rumor has it that the attic is haunted.

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