Celebrate Science Hall

Celebrate Science Hall

On Wednesday, October 30th the Department of Geography and Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies invite you to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Science Hall. We will host tours, presentations, and a reception in the beautiful Robinson Map Library. Join us as we take a look back at the building’s past and look forward to its future. Activities will take place between 4pm – 9pm.

Science Hall, originally one of only a handful of academic university buildings, once housed nearly all of the university’s science departments, from anatomy to zoology. Most have long since moved to newer facilities throughout campus. Today Science Hall is home to the Geography Department (which includes the WI State Cartographer’s Office, Arthur Robinson Map Library, UW Cartography Lab, and History of Cartography Project), the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, and the Geography Library (part of the general UW Library System).

The building, which housed the Geology Department until 1974, received National Historic Landmark status in 1993 because of the important contributions made by professor Charles R. Van Hise (1857-1918) to the field of geology. Other scholars, too, have built significant legacies within its walls. Science Hall is part of the Bascom Hill Historic District which received National Historic landmark status in 1974.

Science Hall is also noted for it’s unique architecture. After the original Science Hall was completely destroyed by fire in 1884, it was rebuilt with a frame made completely of steel beams, three-foot thick walls, double-wall air pockets and little interior wood. It was the first completely fire-proof building on campus and may be the oldest surviving building in the world that makes use of substantial structural steel.

And did we mention the ghosts?

Join us to explore this unique campus building. The event is free and open to the campus community as well as the general public.


Campus_night12_37944:00 pm:  Science Hall Past & Present – Guided Tours 
Tours leave from the first floor elevators at 4:00, 4:15
Join Geography Department staff as they guide you through the building’s past and into the present. Tours will take approximately 45 minutes. Self-guided walking tours and displays available throughout the night. Complimentary copies of Clarence Olmstead’s Science Hall: The First Century pamphlets available.

null5:00 pm:  History of Science Hall
Room 180 Lecture Hall
UW Archivist, David Null, will take us through Science Hall’s rich and interesting past with this presentation of historic photos, stories of former inhabitants, and tales of bygone days.


maplib5:30 pm:  Reception
Arthur Robinson Map Library, 3rd floor
Join us for food and drinks in one of the jewels of the department – our beautiful Robinson Map Library. Here you can explore more historic photos and documents – and perhaps a map or two!

Angela-Contact-300x3007:00 pm:  Greening Historic Buildings
Room 180 Lecture Hall
How do we move an old building into the future – renovating for sustainability and modern needs and expectations while being sensitive to historic preservation? Architect and engineering manager, Angela Pakes Ahlman of the UW-Madison Office of Sustainability, has led a number of high-profile campus building renovations, including that of our historic Bascom Hill neighbor, the School of Education building. She will share her insights and experience.

skelteton8:00 pm:  Haunted Science Hall – A guided tour
Meet by the first floor elevators
On this walking tour of the building you’ll discover some of the more hidden and quirky parts of Science Hall and hear anecdotes about how it earned its spooky reputation.

Leave a Reply