Olin Hall

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Olin Hall (built 1975)

Originally submitted by: Larissa Wurm, Drake University, Nov 29, 2010

Photo Taken by Larissa Wurm

The Opening of Olin Hall

Olin Hall held its ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 9th, 1975. The Olin Foundation, Inc. of New York City donated $3,263,000 to Drake University to build a new biological sciences building, along with another $281,620 to purchase and install equipment for the building. This donation was the largest single grant in the history of the university[1][2].

Dr. Charles Lilley Horn (Olin Foundation President) and Dr. Wilbur C. Miller (University President) made the announcement of the grant May 20, 1973, Dr. Horn saying “I have known Drake and some of its people from my early days in Iowa. In addition, the Foundation has admired the University’s ability to maintain a position of educational leadership in a time of adverse condition for higher education. We are extremely pleased to present this building to Drake University”[2].

Dr. Miller, in response to the grant, said “We are deeply grateful to the Olin Foundation for enabling Drake to achieve this step in the development of its science complex. Drake continues to offer outstanding programs in biology and pre-medicine. The facilities needed to support these programs have long been outgrown"[2].

Olin Hall copy.jpg

The floor plan for the building, designed by Grover Dimond & Associates from St. Paul, Minnesota, was 76,000 square feet. It contained:

  • 4 floors (including a basement level, so it matched the height of the other building on campus)
  • 14 labs for research in microbiology, physiology, ecology, embryology, comparative anatomy, and genetics
  • 34 offices for faculty and grad students
  • 2 lecture halls, one holding 250 students, the other 100

The main entry plaza to the building is formed by the roof of the lecture hall[2] [3].

Who was involved? [4]

  • Gordon Edberg (Grover Dimond and Ellerbe, Inc.) – designer
  • Ellerbe, Inc. – architectural administration
  • Donald Chapman (Grover Dimond and Ellerbe, Inc.) – structural engineer
  • Built by Vawter & Walter Inc.
  • Capital City Electric Company – electrical
  • Stroh Corporation - mechanical
Photo Taken by Larissa Wurm
Photo Taken by Larissa Wurm

Some Hall Information

Before the hall was constructed, 6 other buildings were used for biology. The construction of the hall helped students become more efficient and the faculty were able to develop a better relationship with the students. The hall gave students access
Photo is property of Drake University
to microscopes, animal cages, refrigerators, freezers, incubators, ovens, and other scientific equipment. Instead of the building being made of brick it is made of pre-cast concrete veneer. The building will give space in Harvey Ingham and the College of Pharmacy for the other science classes [2].

In 1981, the psychology department moved into Olin Hall, its classes originally being held in Illinois, Meredith, Medbury, and Harvey Ingham. Upon moving to Olin, however, the department lost their clinic and interview rooms. They also converted some of the biology labs into psychology labs (one would be turned into a human behavior lab, the other an animal behavior research lab). Pigeon cages were bought, costing the school $7,334 instead of the predicted price of $3,000. For the move, Olin had some renovations done to accommodate both departments [5][6].

In 1985 the nursing division moved into Olin Hall as well [7].

In 2006, Olin Hall was renovated again, adding glass windows to the front of the building.

Photo by Larissa Wurm


Olin Hall is located on the corner of 27th Street and Forest Avenue, near Fitch Hall and Harvey Ingham Hall [4].

Olin Hall copy 2.jpg


The photo on the right is from Google Maps, the photo on the left is from The Times Delphic, 1973.

The Olin Foundation

(the following information is as it appears in the program from Drake University for the opening of Olin Hall)

The Olin Foundation was established in 1938 by the late chemical manufacturer, Franklin W. Olin. Under the leadership of Dr. Charles L. Horn, president of the Foundation since 1951 and a native of Ida Grove, Iowa, the Olin Foundation has achieved preeminent reputation in the field of support for higher education. In addition to Dr. Horn, trustees of the Olin Foundation are Carlton T. Helming and William B. Horn from Minneapolis, Lawrence W. Milas and Dr. James O. Wynn from New York City, and Ralph Clark from Chicago.


  • [1] (1975, May 11). Drake Welcomes New Science Hall. The Times Delphic (Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa).
  • [2] (1973, May 18). Press Release from Drake University. News Services.
  • [3] (1973, April 20). Designed by Architects at St. Paul. The Times Delphic (Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa). pg.2.
  • [4] (1993). Facts about Drake University's Proposed Olin Hall of Biological Science. News Services. pg.1-2.
  • [5] Patterson, J. (1981, September 29). Olin New Home for Psychology. The Times Delphic (Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa). pg. 1.
  • [6] Heidel, B. (1981, December 11). Olin Renovated for Psychology. The Times Delphic (Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa). pg. 1-2.
  • [7] Olsen, H.L. (1986, October 10). Olin Has Reason to Gloat. The Times Delphic (Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa).