The Myth of Morrill Hall

One myth I’ve heard around campus is that Morrill Hall was moved from Elko, the location of the original university site. I’m not talking about the intellectual entity housed in Morrill Hall, but the physical building that is Morrill Hall. I’m here to set this straight. Morrill Hall was built where it stands; although the surroundings may be similar, the buildings, pictured below, look nothing alike. Here’s the real story of Morrill Hall.

UNRA-P245-1On March 7, 1873, the Nevada State Legislature passed a bill that located the University of Nevada at Elko. The following year, 1874, the newly founded University began offering preparatory classes at Elko, Nevada. These classes more resembled high school courses than university courses, as there were no high schools in Elko or the surrounding area at the time. The preparatory classes lasted until the 1883-1884 school year, when, a decade later in the autumn of 1884, the State University at Elko was shut down due to an enrollment of zero.

UNRA-P218-1After the closure of the Elko campus, a call for the state university to be relocated to the western part of the state began. On the last day of the 1884 Legislative Session, a bill was passed for the relocation of the state university to Reno. By March 1885, the Board of Regents began examining different locations in Reno for the new university. A ten-acre tract of land located at the northern edge of Reno and belonging to J. N. Evans was agreed upon and purchased for $125 per acre on June 11, 1885. A few months later, on September 12, 1885, the cornerstone was laid for Morrill Hall.

Although construction took longer than initially expected, Morrill Hall was completed for classes to begin in 1886. The campus quickly expanded to include Liberal Arts, Mining, Agriculture, and Business.

Over the years, the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno has dramatically changed. But standing at the south edge of campus is Morrill Hall, a proud testament to our past overlooking the bustling city of Reno. In the words of Elizabeth Stubbs:

“In our mountain-circled valley, where the silver Truckee flows,
And our ‘Varsity stands proudly ‘neath the shadow of Mount Rose
In the land of the Sierras, where the western breeze blows free,
It is there we lift our voices, N. S. U., in song to thee.”

For more detailed information on the history of the University of Nevada, Reno, see:

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