Fitch Hall of Pharmacy

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Fitch Hall of Pharmacy (built 1949)

Originally Submitted By Nathan Bryngelson, Drake University, December 3, 2010

Fitch Hall of Pharmacy - Photo By: Nate Bryngelson

Intro To Fitch Hall of Pharmacy

The expansion of Drake University was not underway until 1949, when a man by the name of Fred Fitch donated $100,000 towards the new pharmacy building and The Gardner Foundation donated money in honor of Harvey Ingham [1]. The pharmacy building was named after Fred Fitch in honor of his contribution along with Harvey Ingham Hall of Science in honor of Harvey Ingham, a long time editor of The Des Moines Register. Fitch Hall of Pharmacy and Harvey Ingham hall were connected by a skywalk for academic purposes and structural reasons. The sky walk was the first one constructed in Des Moines, soon to be followed by skywalks that hang overhead downtown Des Moines today [2]

Fitch Hall - Photo by Clifford Rea, AS'60
Fred W. Fitch - Photo By: Des Moines Register (3)

Meet Mr. Fitch

At the young age of 8 Fitch was signed over as a hired man, or in his case a young child, to a local farmer were he stayed for several years working on a farm. Fitch managed to receive an eighth grade education, but was crushed when he was not able to get into the University of Iowa. He founded the F.W. Fitch Foundation at 22, where he opened his own barbershop. Soon after, experimenting with hair products, Fitch had started to manufacture forty different kinds of hair products and cosmetics. Thirty-six years later, after many years of hard work, Fitch made history in Iowa being the first Iowan to sponsor a national radio broadcast. Soon after Fitch started to become wealthy he donated $100,000 to Drake University to expand its campus. Fitch retired around 1940 when he bought a farm and spent the rest of his days raising cattle. By the time Fitch was a retired man he had designed over 40 hair care products passing away on October 1, of 1951, as a very well respected man in Iowa's history [3].

The Architects

Eero Saarinen and his father Eilel were the powerhouse behind Drake’s expansion. These two men had a Michigan based firm that was a creative leader in the U.S. These men helped design the Cranbook schools, just outside Detroit and Eilel helped design the St. Louis Arch. The Saarinen’s talent added elegant windowed walls and a type of relation between Fitch Hall and its surroundings. Eero Saarinen also designed four dorms, the central dining hall, Charles Medbury Hall, Oreon Scott Memorial, and an expansion of Jewett Student Union at the time. Eero died in 1961 while having a brain tumor removed [3]. The Drake Times Delphic quoted, “he was considered a pioneer in architectural thought.” [4].

Map of Fitch Hall - Photo By: Google Earth (5)

Fitch Hall Design

Fitch Hall was created of brick masonry and steel grid containing vast amounts of glass. Fitch Hall is at a right angle of Harvey Ingham hall, connected with a skywalk that separates the building, yet they are seen as one. The pharmacy building contained four laboratories, multiple classrooms, many offices, and a very large lecture hall. Most pharmacy students spent their day in this building so it was built with lockers for storage [1].

Skywalk looking south March 2011. Photo by Susan Fink, AS'92, GR'95 & '98

Photo by Clifford Rea, AS'60


Davidson Pharmacy - Practice Laboratory

Walgreens donated over $50,000 to Drake University on February 28, 2008. The money was donated to refurnish the practice pharmaceutical laboratory in Fitch Hall (see picture to the right). The renovation allows students to get an up-to-date education on over the counter drugs. It also puts the students in real life type atmosphere to further pharmacy education majors to pursue their career. This laboratory makes Fitch Hall a great, high-tech learning environment where students get the best hands on experience. This all started about 60 years ago from Fred W. Fitch's generous donation [6].


1.) Saarinen, Eero. 1949. Fitch Hall of Pharmacy & Harvey Ingham Hall of Science. Saarinen, Swanson and Saarinen. 2.) Michaela Mullin, Rebecca Rieck, and Yvette Sutton. Fitch Hall of Pharmacy.// Drake University. 3.) Des Moines Register. November 3, 2010. Fred, Fitch W. Des Moines Register. 4.) Famed Architect; Drake Building Designer Dead. September 15, 1961. Times Delphic 5.) Google Earth. 6.) Walgreens Supports Drake Pharmacy Lab Renovation (September 15, 2010.)


1.) “Drake Architecture Presented by Cowles Library” 2.) Wikipedia. “Eero Saarinen” (September 12, 2010.)