Three views of West Hall
December 2, 2011 by Sarah A. Hanson
USD Photograph Collection, Series 4, no. 27
USD Photograph Collection, Series 4, no. 5071
USD Photograph Collection, Series 4, no. 5074
According to Cedric Cummins, The University of South Dakota 1862-1966, West Hall was constructed in 1885 as the University’s first dormitory with an appropriation from the biennial territorial legislature for $8,000. First known as Ladies Hall and then West Hall, it served as the women’s dormitory until the construction of East Hall in 1888. After 1888, West Hall became the principal place of residence for men attending the University.
After the fire of Old Main (University Hall) in 1893, the temporary office of the President and the chapel were moved to West Hall. Classes were held there in addition to its continued use as the men’s dormitory until the reconstruction of Old Main, after which it regained its sole use as a dormitory. West Hall succumbed to a mysterious fire during summer recess in 1905, from which it never recovered.
The following spring, successful revival meetings at the Methodist Church solved the mystery. Moved to contrition by the revival, Elmer S. Jordan, University student from a leading Vermillion family, confessed that he and his friend, Richard Brueschweiler, son of a former music professor, had burned the three old buildings [two buildings in Vermillion in addition to West Hall] in an effort to beautify Vermillion. They had, in fact, planned other fires, secreting an unsuccessful electrical device in City Hall which was supposed to have been their biggest blaze (Cummins p. 109).
Information from: Cummins, Cedric. The University of South Dakota, 1862-1966. Vermillion, S.D.: Dakota Press, 1975