The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.
James Burrill Angell Hall

Foremost in the building program inaugurated by President Burton in 1920 was provision for a new main structure for the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, since the space provided by old University Hall had become inadequate. Classes were being held wherever rooms could be found: in an old abandoned public school building known as West Hall on the west side of State Street, the basement of Tappan Hall, Alumni Memorial Hall, Newberry Hall, Hill Auditorium, the Law and Medical buildings, the Natural Science Building, and the Library.

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. This condition existed in spite of the fact that the larger rooms in Mason Hall and in the South Wing had been divided by partitions so that the total numbers of rooms had been doubled. Had Bertrand Russell known these facts when he visited the campus in 1924, he probably would not have made the remark, with which he was later credited, to the effect that he had never met an American educator "who was not more interested in buildings than in education."

It was felt that inasmuch as the University had grown up around the Literary College and because the College serves 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, therefore, decided upon as being more in harmony with existing buildings, namely Alumni Memorial Hall, the President's House, the Clements Library (then in process of construction), and Hill Auditorium.

The discussion as to the site turned on the desire to preserve old University Hall as a relic of the early days. At first the Regents favored retention of the oldest part, Mason Hall, with the new building surrounding it, but further discussion brought a change of mind, and the decision was reversed. The site on which it stood had become too valuable to permit the preservation of the old building, and the retention of a part Page  1575of it would have made it impossible to work out satisfactory lighting conditions for the new. Thus, even in the early 1920's University Hall was destined in the course of time to bow its way out.

Angell Hall, extending for 480 feet along State Street, was completed in 1924 at a cost of $1,077,000. Only the first two sections, comprising the long façade, were erected as originally projected. 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 consists of a basement and four stories, with an extra section above the top floor, which provides a small observatory. When completed the building provided 152,000 square feet of floor space. 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 some years the President and other officers of the University also occupied offices on the first floor.

Restrained sculptural details on the exterior suggest the functions of the building. Thus, on panels in the spandrels between the main columns appear 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, finished in travertine marble, is attractive and spacious and well adapted to the purposes of the building. Its classical details are echoed in the rich ceiling decorations, the work of the Di Lorenzo Studios, of New York, the firm which was responsible for the decoration of the General Library and the Clements Library.

The general plan of the building 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 façade of the new building.

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. When the Mason Hall and Haven Hall units were added in 1952 the north and south ends of Angell Hall, which had been left bricked up in anticipation that the completion of the building would extend them, were refinished in limestone.