Backstory and Context
It was originally designed as an all purpose building and contained a library, reading rooms, chapel, and large public meeting room with a balcony. Sixteen items were placed in the cornerstone of the new building, including a silver 1821 dime from the cornerstone of the Lyceum dorm. The large meeting room was used for the University's commencement ceremonies, but the extremely tall windows created a terrible glare and inconvenienced all within.
In 1910 the building started to go downhill and by 1948 it was near collapse with bowing walls from the heavy sagging roof. However, the engineer Fred Maxwell saved the hall by erecting an interior steel frame within the building, making it the most structurally sound building on campus at the time. Still dealing with the problem of the windows, the university hired a Birmingham artist to paint a trompe l'oeil effect of the sky outside on the boarded up panes. This only lasted until the inside needed a fresh coat of paint and had thoroughly disappeared by 1981 when the building went through its latest remodeling. The building was originally carefully crafted crafted with cathedral glass window which were later broken and replaced by plain glass.
The building took its name from Willis G. Clark, an appointed trustee of the University of Alabama. Originally coming from New York, Clark paved his way to importance by getting involved in education, business, and was both a credited author and editor. He advanced the Alabama public education system and went to great lengths to ensure it had substantial funding. "Clark developed an interest in education and traveled in various northern states to study outstanding school-systems. Acting under Clark's advice the Mobile schools began deriving operating funds from sources of revenue commonly used for education through out the United States in this period."