University of Idaho Alumni Office - Moscow
1106 Blake Ave.
875 Perimeter Drive MS 3232
Moscow, ID 83844-3232
(208) 885-6975 (fax)
Administration Building: 1889-1907-present
By Alexiss Turner
Walking into her father’s office was like walking through a time warp. From iron railings, concrete columns, the smell of linseed oil and creaks of wooden floors into ultra-modern times.
The new carpet and wood paneling was super chic in 1965 when Katharine Washington became a frequenter of the University of Idaho Administration Building. Her father, former university president Ernest W. Hartung, picked out the motif with the help of his wife.
Even as a teenager, Washington said she felt the contrast between her father's suite and the rest of the campus landmark added to the building’s charm.
“Even at that age, I appreciated the age of the building,” she said.
Photos courtesy of the U-Idaho Library. Hover over slideshow for captions.
One of the first buildings constructed on campus, the red-brick walls of the Administration Building had seen decades of change before Washington ever set foot in the building.
Designed by John E. Tourtellotte, the same architect of the Idaho Capitol building in Boise, the building was an even larger version of its predecessor, a four-story structure over half a football field long.
With the last addition completed in 1902, the original Romanesque Revival-styled building contained 45 rooms finished in California Redwood, and it housed all university functions including laboratories in the basement, classrooms, music room and library.
In the early morning hours of March 30, 1906, the Moscow community awoke to their landmark fully engulfed in flames. Within a few hours, the building was reduced to a brick skeleton. The idea of rebuilding using the existing walls proved impossible, and remnants were dynamited to make way for construction of the new Gothic Revival-styled Administration Building completed in 1907.
The structure consisted of an east wing, and north and south wings were added and expanded until 1936. The library remained on the second floor south of the building's main staircase until 1957.
When University of Idaho Interim President Don Burnett’s mother Doris started working in the Administration Building library in 1933, she made 35 cents an hour. When she received a raise to 50 cents per hour, Burnett said she was able to send Christmas gifts to family in Wallace, Idaho, and purchase a ticket to make the trip herself.
The Great Depression was a tough time, Burnett said, but its challenges were shared by everyone.
"Doris later told me that going to the University of Idaho in the Depression was tough,” he said. “But because everyone was in the same situation, no one felt poor.”
In 1957, the library moved to its current location across from Memorial Gym and the law library was established in the basement of the Administration Building. The south wing had to be reinforced with concrete columns to support the weight of the book stacks. The law library remained there till 1972.
That same year, Washington said she was leaving campus with her father when she came across a pivotal addition to the Administration Building: the first U-Idaho Women’s Center. Located across from Hartung’s office, the center was formed by the president and volunteer staff to aid the university's female population. At the time, about 35 percent of students were women and their drop-out rate was 25-30 percent.
“I do remember him showing to me, with great pride, the (office) sign that U-Idaho was on the cutting edge and bringing this whole thing in,” she said.
Hartung, an avid proponent of the arts, played a strong role in Washington’s education at U-Idaho. A self-described geeky musician, Washington graduated from U-Idaho with her Masters in music in 1979. In high school, Washington said she had the privilege of using the electric typewriter in her father's suite to complete term papers.
“For me, it was a very special thing to sit at the secretary’s desk,” she said.
The Administration Auditorium - present (above) and in 1927 (below). Besides having received some updates in the 1980s, the Administration Auditorium is for the most part historically intact.
In high school and college, Washington performed many concerts in the Administration Auditorium. Although it received some updates in the 1980s– including a deeper stage, new seating, lighting and access doors – the auditorium is for the most part historically intact. It is said the chandelier that currently hangs in the Administration Building's main stair was taken from the auditorium.
Carol Grupp '71 worked in the Administration Building from 1975-2000. In the 1980s, the shift began into the digital age, and Grupp said it became apparent that a world without personal computers would no longer exist. She said the transition required staff to attend many lessons in the basement and first-floor labs.
"It was, 'In the new world order, you need to do this," she said.
Along with the many frustrations and revelations Grupp and her coworkers felt while attending these lessons, one 1983 session was particularly shocking.
"There was a strange sensation in the room," she said. "I looked over, and the blinds in the window were shaking."
The walls of the Administration Building were vibrating from a 6.9-magnitude earthquake in the Challis-Mackay area of Idaho - more than seven hours away.
Now in addition to computer labs, the Administration Building currently houses a myriad of classrooms and administrative offices including those for the College of Letters Arts and Social Sciences, Department of History, Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, the Martin Institute and, of course, the President’s Office.
Next year marks the 125th anniversary of the University of Idaho. Members of the university community present and past are invited to help tell our story. Have a favorite memory to share? Email us with your discoveries!