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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

One hundred years of Jesse Hall

Dec. 1, 1995

One of MU's most famous residents turned 100 years old this year.

Richard Henry Jesse Hall, better known as Jesse Hall, was completed in 1895.

According to information compiled by the Missouri State Historical Society, Jesse Hall was built to replace MU's original Academic Hall that was ravaged by a fire in 1892. Jesse Hall has stood as one of MU's landmarks for a century. It is one of five buildings on the MU campus that was designed by Morris Fredrick Bell of Fulton, Mo.

"I think it's a representative of the traditions held here at MU, because it's right there in the center of campus where people see it and walk by it," said freshman Jenni Linebarger. "It gives them a sense of connection with the past and the future."

Originally named Academic Hall at its dedication, MU changed the name in 1922 to honor Richard Henry Jesse, who was president of the University of Missouri for 17 years.

Jesse Hall lies in the heart of the MU campus, at the far end of Francis Quadrangle, overlooking The Columns. The Columns were the only part of Academic Hall to survive the 1892 fire.

Known for its architecture — like the large, sweeping doors and the high dome — Jesse Hall is one of MU's most beautiful landmarks.

The dome, which is closed off to the public because of safety concerns, was modeled after the new Connecticut State House.

Jesse Hall houses the admissions, chancellor, financial aid and graduate school offices, as well as the auditorium, where notable figures like Mark Twain have spoken, according to newspaper clippings and other documents at the historical society.

However, Jesse Hall has not always housed academic offices.

"In the '30s, Jesse was used for classes, the Indoor ROTC Rifle Club and social groups, like fraternities and sororities, had special places to go to meet in between classes," said MU history professor Haskell Monroe.

After a storm ripped through Columbia in 1982, Jesse was renovated with a new ball, a new slate on the dome, tempered windows, reinforced beams and a new paint job. The renovations cost roughly $390,000 and were paid for by state funds.

On April 23, 1991, an arsonist caused an estimated $350,000-$500,000 worth of damage to Jesse Hall.

Jesse Hall is lit every night. The dome was first lit in October 1987 to commemorate MU's sesquicentennial celebration, according to information at the Missouri State Historical Society.

"[Jesse Hall] is a building you can see from anywhere," said MU senior Becky Fletcher. "It's kind of a landmark, everyone knows where it is and what it is."

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