Classes were taught inside structure while it moved across Jefferson Street
Completed in 1885 and originally located on the Pentacrest, Calvin Hall is best known for its dramatic relocation in 1905. When Macbride Hall displaced it from the Pentacrest, it also took over its core functions. In a bold decision for the time, the teaching of science was not interrupted during relocation, with classes continuing to be taught in Calvin while it was moved across Jefferson Street at a rate of two feet per day. More than 1,000 screw jacks and an army of horses kept the building level and usable during this 105-foot trek to the north. Calvin Hall was eventually renamed after a distinguished faculty member who taught there – Samuel Calvin, a geologist and curator of the Museum of Natural History. Today, it contains a variety of student services offices. A boulder beneath the south façade commemorates the 1855 decision to admit women on the same basis as men; Iowa was the first state university west of the Mississippi River to do so.
A boulder beneath the south façade commemorates the 1855 decision to admit women on the same basis as men; Iowa was the first state university west of the Mississippi River to do so.
A major factor behind the decision to move Calvin Hall was its Italiante red-brick exterior, which was out of place on the developing Pentacrest. The resources expended in that transfer illustrate the University’s commitment to campus architecture; not only did the administration carry through the plan for a limestone Beaux-Arts Classicism theme for the buildings surrounding the Old Capitol, it also recognized the worth of Calvin Hall and expended the resources needed to retain the older structure. The building is the oldest university building, excepting Old Capitol, and the best example of the buildings that once populated the Pentacrest. Today, Calvin Hall stands as the sole surviving relic of the red-brick campus that once was.
Calvin bears some curious ornamentation, including the three terra-cotta reliefs above the second-story porch; two spirals that flank a head in profile wearing a liberty cap (a pointed headpiece symbolic of the struggle for political liberty). Rising even further, the building is topped by a wide frieze, cornice, and gabled Mansard roof.
Editor's Note: "Architecture 101" is an introduction to the architecture of the University of Iowa campus and some of the history of a handful of its buildings. New chapters will be added weekly beginning in mid-June and through the fall. All installments of Architecture 101 are excerpts from the second edition of the book, "The University of Iowa Guide to Campus Architecture," by John Beldon Scott and Rodney P. Lehnertz. The guide was published for the Office of the President by the University of Iowa Press and will be available for purchase in late summer/early fall 2016.