University Hall (Main Hall) at the University of Montana
The University of Montana’s campus has been one of the most prominent in the state ever since it was founded in 1893. The focal point of campus is University Hall, also known as Main Hall, designed by prominent architect A. J. Gibson and built in 1898. Today, the Office of the President and several other administrative offices are housed in University Hall.
Backstory and Context
The most iconic building on the University of Montana campus is University Hall, built in 1898. While official university materials refer to the building as University Hall, when engineering professor Frederick C. Scheuch drew up plans for the campus in 1895, he marked the hall as "Main Building," leading to the building's nickname, Main Hall.
University Hall has housed generations of university presidents. High turnover rates in the leadership of the University of Montana reflect the challenges of higher education in Montana. A long-running feud between prominent Montana businessmen William Clark and Marcus Daly and the resulting political conflicts resulted in the establishment of several university campuses in the state, including the University of Montana (originally known as Montana State University). Historian Michael Malone contends that "there are simply too many campuses for such a lightly populated state to support.” [p. 60] The resulting difficulties have contributed to frequent changes in university administration.
While the leadership of the university has changed, University Hall has remained much the same. Former campus maintenance supervisor Herbert Lee Torgrimson, who worked on campus from the 1930s through the 1970s, recalled some changes to the building in a 1991 interview: “The clock faces that are on Main Hall: that used to be solid blackboard with the hands on it.” Torgrimson also explained how the iconic carillon works: “There's no keys and such like on a piano. What there are is sticks that are like a keyboard. You hit those with your fist. They're hooked by a wire to a little lever that hits the bell.”
As journalist Martin Kidston wrote in 2014, "Main Hall maintains its grandeur . . . . Alumni and students gather on its steps each Homecoming for singing and reminiscing."
Karlin, Jules A. "Conflict and Crisis in University Politics: The Firing of President E. B. Craighead, 1915." Montana: The Magazine of Western History 36, no. 3, pp. 48 - 61.
Kidston, Martin. "UM Main Hall Stands as Inspiration," Missoulian, Jan. 30, 2014. https://missoulian.com/lifestyles/100icons/um-main-hall-stands-as-inspiration/article_a5cc1e02-008c-11e4-b9d1-001a4bcf887a.html
Malone, Michael P. "The Montana University System: The First Half-Century." Montana: The Magazine of Western History 44, no. 2 (Spring 1994), 60 - 64.
Torgrimson, Herbert Lee "Herb." Interview with Annie Pontrelli, July 25, 1991. University of Montana Centennial Oral History Project. Scholar Works. https://scholarworks.umt.edu/umcentennial_interviews/18/
University History Research Guide: Buildings and Grounds. http://libguides.lib.umt.edu/c.php?g=275461&p=1836048