Angell Hall, Mason Hall, and Haven Hall

Angell Hall

By the 1920s classroom space for the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts had become inadequate. Classes were being held wherever rooms could be found. Consultations after classes were generally impossible because of the continuous use of classrooms. Some courses were not offered at all because of lack of space while others were given in more than one building.

It was felt that inasmuch as the University had grown up around the Literary College and because the College served all other departments, the new building should be the central structure on the campus. It should not only be large but, in the words of President Burton, “It should be beautiful, dignified, and commanding. It should help to give unity and form to the entire Campus.” A classic design was decided upon as being more in harmony with existing buildings, namely the Alumni Memorial Hall, the President’s House, the Clements Library, and Hill Auditorium.

There was an attempt to preserve University Hall, particularly Mason Hall, the first classroom building on the Univesity of Michigan campus. However, the site on which it stood had become too valuable to permit the preservation of the old building, and the retention of a part of it would have made it impossible to work out satisfactory lighting conditions for the new building.

Architectural drawing of the proposed new LS&A building

Sketch of the Campanile by architect Albert Kahn

that was to be part of the new buiilding.

Completed in 1924, only the middle sections, comprising the long facade was built. In his design, the architect, Albert Kahn, of Detroit, followed a severely classical precedent in the entrance portico with its eight great Doric columns surmounting a wide esplanade of steps across the front.

The building consisted of a basement and four stories, with an extra section above the top floor, which provided a small observatory. In addition to the offices and classrooms of the various departments and the office of the Dean of the College, a number of rooms were also designated for special purposes, such as the study hall and the Mathematics Library. For many years the President and other officers of the University also occupied offices on the first floor.

At the request of the faculty of the College and of the Student Council, the Regents, in December, 1924, named the building James Burrill Angell Hall, in honor of James Angell, President of the University from 1871-1909.

Angell Hall was built directly in front of University Hall

Footprint of Angell Hall (orange) in front of University Hall (green)

Angell Hall (left) University Hall (right)

The general plan of Angell Hall provided for a grouping of departments so that, in the words of Dean John R. Effinger, “… each department may develop its own spirit,” with those having common interests adjacent to each other.

A desire was also expressed by Dean Effinger that a measure of the spirit of old University Hall might be preserved by placing somewhere that noble phrase from the Ordinance of 1787, which has thrilled so many generations of students and which many had unconsciously learned from seeing it in the auditorium in the old building: “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” This quotation was carved in stone high over the facade of the new building.

Northwest Ordinance

Above the stage in University Hall

Northwest Ordinance

On the facade of Angell Hall

Eight Doric columns surround the entrance to Angell Hall

Angell Hall under construction

A small observatory was housed on the top of Angell Hall


Restrained sculptural details on the exterior suggested the functions of the building. On panels in the spandrels between the main columns appeared among other motives the owl, the book, and the lamp of learning; larger panels at the sides present figures in bas-relief emblematic of philosophy and the arts. Over the main door another relief incorporates devices traditional to learning and treats decoratively the inscription on the University seal, “Artes, Scientia, Veritas.” Ulysses Ricci, of New York, was the sculptor for this motto. The planting and approaches were prepared by the landscape architects, Pitkin and Mott, of Cleveland, Ohio.

The entrance lobby was finished in travertine marble. The rich ceiling decorations, the work of the Di Lorenzo Studios, of New York, the firm that was responsible for the decoration of the General Library and the Clements Library.

Entrance Lobby

The University Main BuildingAngell Hall sketch by Wilfred Shaw