The Heart of Mizzou
See what campus looked like pre-1900s.
Academic Hall and its six limestone columns have always represented the heart of MU. Take a look back in time at the center of campus when cows still wandered across Francis Quadrangle and an elephant and a whale called Academic Hall home.
Artist’s rendering of Academic Hall, ca. 1850. Courtesy University Archives c:0/3/8
This lithograph shows, from left, the pre-1863 president’s residence, Academic Hall and the observatory. The image was created by L. Gast & Brothers Lithographers of St. Louis. Courtesy University Archives C:0/3/8
An aerial perspective of Columbia in 1869 by Albert Ruger.
Detail of Academic Hall from the 1869 illustration by Albert Ruger.
This engraving originally appeared in the 1872 University of Missouri course catalog. It was created by the R. P. Studley Company of St. Louis. The image includes an early depiction of what we now know as Switzler Hall, then called the Agriculture Building. The small man-made lake north of Academic Hall survived until the 1880s but was filled in due to fears it could help the spread of contagious diseases among students. Courtesy University Archives C:0/49/2
Academic Hall as it appeared after original construction, when Mizzou was still known as Missouri State University. Photo courtesy University Archives c:1/141/8
A favorite among 1800s lithographs of campus, this view displays a primitivist lack of perspective. It is not attributed to an artist but is consistently cited as being published in 1875. Of note are the long-vanished “Chalybeate Spring” pagoda, bottom center, and Normal [School] Building, lower right. Courtesy University Archives C:0/47/2
The “Chalybeate Spring” pagoda once stood to the north of Academic Hall. Photo courtesy University Archives, c:0/3/8
The east and west wings were added to Academic Hall in 1885. Photo courtesy University Archives c:0/3/8
Cadets parade in front of Academic Hall in 1885. Photo courtesy University Archives c:1/141/8
This photo, date unknown, shows cattle lounging in the grass in front of Academic Hall and the original location of Thomas Jefferson’s tombstone (foreground center). Photo courtesy of the State Historical Society of Missouri.
Interior of the Academic Hall reading room. Photo courtesy University Archives c:20/8/6
The original Academic Hall housed the university’s Natural History Museum. The centerpiece of the collection was “The Emperor,” an Asian elephant once owned by Ringling Brothers Circus. The elephant and other pieces of the collection — including a whale jawbone — were saved from the fire of 1892. Photo from the December 1931 Missouri Alumnus.
According to legend, flames started by the first light bulb west of the Mississippi engulfed Academic Hall on the evening of Jan. 9, 1892. Photo courtesy University Archives C:0/3/8
The remains of Academic Hall after the fire. Photo courtesy University Archives C:0/3/8
Only the Columns remained after the fire in 1892. In August 1893, the Board of Curators voted to remove the Columns, considering them not only unsafe but also unsightly. However, supporters of the Columns rallied to their defense, and after inspection showed the foundations were safe, the board voted in December 1893 to retain them. Photo courtesy University Archives, Bulletin, 11/22/1971.
An 1893 artist’s rendering shows changes and additions planned for MU’s campus after the Academic Hall fire. A new Academic Hall built in 1895 to replace the original building was renamed Jesse Hall in 1922. Photo courtesy University Archives c:0/3/8