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Northwest Missouri State University

News Release

Administration Building

The Northwest Missouri State Administration Building recently took its place on the National Register of Historic Places. Though its interior has gone through several changes, the exterior, pictured on the left in 1925, looks much the same today. (Left photo from "Transitions: A Hundred Years of Northwest"/Right photo by Darren Whitley)

Aug. 16, 2010

Administration Building added to National Register of Historic Places

Administration Building history

Fall 1906: Work begins on the Administration Building's foundation.

Oct. 12, 1907: The cornerstone of the Administration Building is laid.

Oct. 3, 1910: Classes begin in the Administration Building.

March 15, 1919: A tornado causes an estimated $20,000 in damage.

July 24, 1979: Fire destroys 60 percent of the Administration Building.

The Northwest Missouri State University Administration Building, with its century-old towers standing as symbols of culture, education and economic development, has been added to National Register of Historic Places.

The Administration Building's listing on the National Park Service registry is the culmination of Jason Williamson's six years of research. In July, Williamson earned his master's degree in history from Northwest after completing a unique thesis project about the Administration Building.

Williamson's nomination for the National Register, a trimmed-down version of his thesis, focused on the life of the Administration Building between 1907 and 1959. In 1959, Colden Hall opened, marking the end of the Administration Building's use as the college's primary academic building. "Once that opens, it changes the function of what the Administration Building is," Williamson said.

The four-story brick building was constructed in the Tudor Gothic or Collegiate Gothic style and completed in 1910. Williamson notes the building's exterior, with its limestone and terra cotta accents, remains largely unchanged since its completion, although the north wing theater was destroyed by a fire in 1979. Renovations have changed the building's interior considerably, but it retains its central corridor and some original finishes.

Today it houses Admissions, Career Services, the Graduate Office, Registrar's Office, Student Financial Assistance, various administrative and student services offices and the Office of Human Resources Management.

"Although the Administration Building has faced near destruction and the campus has changed considerably over the last century, the 100,000-square-foot building remains the centerpiece of a vibrant university," Williamson wrote in his nomination summary.

Williamson's thesis focused on education in northwest Missouri and how the Fifth District Normal School, founded in 1905, evolved into the state university it is today. Williamson also reviewed the building's construction and its role in educating students.

"The building tends to symbolize that idea of culture and education as a whole for the region," Williamson said.

Much of Williamson's research was original. He spent hours poring over microfilm, Board of Regents minutes, court records, personal letters and catalogs from the University's first decades. "I basically read every Maryville paper from 1905 to about the 1940s," he said.

Dr. Janice Brandon-Falcone, professor in the department of history, humanities, philosophy and political science, and author of "Transitions: A Hundred Years of Northwest," supervised Williamson's research.

"He really was dogged," Brandon-Falcone said. "In order to get put on the National Register you have to write a pretty thorough history of the architectural changes and history of the building, and make an argument for its historical significance."

Remarkable, Williamson notes in his research, were some of the obstacles the school overcame to complete the Administration Building. At one point the foundation caved, the original contractor was kicked off the job and the building sat without a roof for nearly a year, Williamson said.

Financial difficulties also slowed construction. According to Williamson's research, the building was projected to cost about $300,000, but the state awarded the Normal School just $225,000 for construction. "The Board of Regents fought pretty hard to get the building," Williamson said.

When classes finally began inside the building in October 1910, construction still wasn't complete. "There's a lot of stuff about students getting used to the drills and construction during class," Williamson said.

During its early years, the building housed the college's classes and staff offices, in addition to the grade school, science labs, two gymnasiums, the library and auditorium.

"It became an important symbol for the whole region, not just for economic development, but for cultural development," Brandon-Falcone said. "Just the generations of students and faculty that have passed through the building in terms of learning and education, what it represents is enough for me to say it's worthy of being placed there. After that comes the broader outreach to the larger community and the region. I think it did improve the life and culture of this region, and the economics of it, too."

Although Williamson dedicated a large portion of his thesis to the 1979 fire, he trimmed much of that era from his nomination because it did not occur during what he declared as the "period of significance" for his nomination to the National Register.

The fire on July 24, 1979, caused by an electrical malfunction on the Administration Building's fourth floor, destroyed about 60 percent of the building, including the 1,000-seat Deerwester Theater that made up the building's north wing. The aftermath resulted in construction of the B.D. Owens Library, the Ron Houston Center for the Performing Arts and renovations to other campus buildings.

"You can't talk about the building without mentioning the fire, and you can't really talk about the campus because the campus isn't 'the campus' without the fire," Williamson said. "Most of what we see now is because of the fire."

Williamson, a Fremont, Neb., native works at Midland GIS Solutions in Maryville, where his responsibilities include digital mapping. He earned his bachelor's degree in history with a minor in public history from Northwest in 2004.

The Administration Building joins the Thomas Gaunt House as Northwest buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Gaunt House, which was built in 1870 and serves as the University president's residence, was added to the registry in 1979.

For recent additions to the National Registry, click here:

For more information, please contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468