Inside of a chemistry lab in Babcock Hall after the fire.
After Construction was complete in 1907
Babcock Hall today.
Backstory and Context
Babcock Hall is the oldest building standing on the University of North Dakota campus. Built to house the mining engineering department, it was the first home of the prominent UND ceramics program and housed several other academic programs. Following renovations it will once again house part of UND's engineering department.
It was designed by a local architect Joseph Bell DeRemer, with a Jacobethan style evident with the steeply raked roof with high chimneys, arched windows and doors, light stone trim, balustrades, and entry porch. Babcock has no adjacent buildings to it, but does have a sidewalk running along the front of the building. DeRemer also designed Merrifield and Montgomery halls and the former president's house at UND, and the North Dakota State Capitol.
Built to house the departments of mining engineering and chemistry in 1907, Babcock Hall was dedicated in June 1908. There are "hole-y" rocks on the northeast side of this building that were used to teach mining students drilling techniques. In 1909, two additions on the north and south ends of the building were constructed to accommodate the mining experiment station and the new ceramics program.
In 1910 on October 9th, a serious fire burned ⅔ of the northern roof and extensive water damage to the north half of the hall. It is thought that it had started from spontaneous combustion built up in a chemical lab on the second floor in northern part of the building. It wasn't noticed until early afternoon. It took the fire department multiple hours to put it out and completely extinguish it. Luckily, there was not damage to the outer walls. Construction and repairs only took a few months to get it up and running again. A lot of the paperwork and chemistry supplies were moved to the Commons Building.
Babcock Hall was named after Dean Earle J. Babcock, the first engineering dean and interim president from 1917 to 1918, after he died on September 3, 1925. Earle Babcock surveyed North Dakota's mineral resources and discovered that the state had deposits of high quality potter's clay. He hired potter Margaret Kelly Cable to develop a program in university program in ceramics. Cable directed the ceramics program from 1910 to 1949. Cable and her students produced utilitarian goods such as drainage tile and bricks. But they became famous for their decorative pottery. Known alternately as Cable pottery, School of Mines Pottery, UND Pottery or North Dakota (ND) Cable Pottery, UND pottery is highly collectible. It has been featured on the PBS television series "Antiques Roadshow," and several books have been published on the subject.
Babcock Hall later housed the Anthropology department for many years. As of 2019 it sits empty awaiting renovations. In the future it will become a hub for big data research, and will house electrical engineering and the computer science department.
University Archives Photos Collection. Scholarly Commons. Accessed April 21, 2019. https://commons.und.edu/archive-photos/140/.
Mook, Sydney. Old home made new: UND's oldest academic building to be renovated. Grand Forks Herald. October 16, 2018. Accessed April 20, 2019. https://www.grandforksherald.com/news/education/4513997-old-home-made-new-unds-oldest-academic-building-be-renovated.
UND Pottery Collection. UND Scholarly Commons. . Accessed April 29, 2019. https://commons.und.edu/pottery/.
Barr, Bob. North Dakota Pottery Collectors Society. UND: University of North Dakota. . Accessed April 29, 2019. http://ndpcs.org/und.htm.
Gaffney, Dennis. Tips of the Trade School of Mines Pottery. Antiques Roadshow. . Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/roadshow/tips/undpottery.html.