Ol’ Chandler prepares to check out – but not before others

Facilities: UND’s oldest building likely to be torn down in the summer 2018

Chandler Hall

Chandler Hall, the oldest building at the University of North Dakota, will soon meet its end. But, according to University facility planners, the building still has some time before it meets the wrecking ball. UND archival photo.

Unknown to most students and never a standout example of architecture, the oldest building at the University of North Dakota will soon meet its end.

But, according to University facility planners, the old building still has some time before it meets the wrecking ball.

Seven other University structures will be taken down over the summer. They include the former Conflict Resolution Center, 314 Cambridge; the former Center for Community Engagement, 317 Cambridge; the one-time Women’s Center on Hamline Street; and the former Era Bell Thompson Center; International Center and Strinden Center, all on University Avenue.

Mike Pieper, associate vice president of facilities, says Chandler Hall most likely will be taken down in the summer of 2018, giving UND staff and faculty who use the building a few more weeks to transition out of the structure.

“Moving the remaining tenants out of Chandler will occur over this summer,” Pieper said. “There are also a lot of electrical utility transformers that were placed next to Chandler over the years – the extra time will help us plan a good long term solution for relocating the transformers, if needed.”

Updated plans

Pieper said that Chandler will be included in another round of demolitions next summer that will include some old student housing buildings.

Pieper said this summer’s demolitions jobs will be publicly bid for later this spring.

“The order (of demolition) will be up to the contractors that bid on the project, in consultation with UND,” he said. “The contractors will be looking for the most cost-effective schedule.

“UND wants all the heavy traffic to be over prior to school starting in the fall.”

In addition to saying farewell to several longtime structures, UND will be updating its Master Plan over the next year. The input collected should address UND’s intentions for the remaining buildings listed in the last draft of the Master Planning document. These buildings are among 13 that, according to plans, are being “phased out.”

“It does not mean the remaining buildings will be demolished,” Pieper said. “They could also be renovated or repurposed in the future.”

Built in pieces

But back to UND’s granddaddy of all buildings – Chandler.

Chandler Hall’s layout reflects the fact that it was built in pieces. Ground for the first (or “southern”) portion — the Power House — was broken on June 29, 1899. An addition, serving as a coal shed, went up that fall. The building’s heritage as a heating plant was shown by the prominent chimney, which was finally taken down in the fall of 1981.

In 1902, the northern portion was constructed. This two-story addition provided facilities for the engineering department, with shops, laboratories and classrooms. The next year an intermediate structure was built to join the northern and southern parts.

The Power House had a problem: location. It took horse-drawn wagons to transport coal from the railroad some distance to the south. In 1904, a track to accommodate a switch-engine was laid following the contour of the English Coulee. This was removed in 1909 following the construction of the current steam plant adjacent to the railroad track.

Also in 1904, track was laid from the north. This was for an electric trolley line linking the University with the city, with the Power House as the campus terminal point. It served as the headquarters of the line and provided the current until the larger city street-car system was built in 1908.

Chandler Hall

The UND Department of Theatre Arts set up offices and classrooms in Chandler when Art moved to the Edmond A. Hughes Fine Arts Center. UND archival photo.

Varied uses

With the construction of the new steam plant, the whole of the former building became available for engineering and thus would be known as the Engineering Building or Mechanical Engineering.

Growing enrollment in engineering prompted the placement of temporary outbuildings nearby; these were removed as changes were made in the curriculum. Between 1936 and 1940, four more additions were made to the building to bring it to its final configuration.

The completion of Harrington Hall in 1952 would mark the beginning of modern facilities for UND’s engineering programs, a process that has continued through 2016 with the Collaborative Energy Complex.

Chandler Hall, which acquired its name in 1935, has since seen a number of varied uses. It has been the longtime location of UND’s laundry operation. From 1971 to 1974 it was home for the Department of Art. The Department of Theatre Arts set up offices and classrooms in Chandler when Art moved to the Edmond A. Hughes Fine Arts Center.

UND’s Printing Center occupied part of Chandler from 1975 until 2013, when that operation was closed. Chandler has also provided space for research, most recently housing specimens for UND Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of Biology Bill Sheridan’s maize genetics studies.

According to longtime and now retired UND Director of Physical Plant LeRoy Sondrol, old Chandler Hall was even used at one time as an airplane hangar for a time.

Elwyn Chandler

UND’s Chandler Hall was named for Elwyn Chandler, who was the school’s first professor of civil engineering and an enthusiastic supporter of UND Athletics. UND archival photo.

Tragic end

Louis Geiger’s history of UND, University of the Northern Plains, notes: “Elwyn Chandler (M.A., Ripon), appointed in 1899, quickly won a local reputation as a brilliant mathematician. He became the first professor of civil engineering in 1910 and was dean of the College of Engineering from 1927 to 1932. Appointed hydraulic engineer for the United States Geological Survey in 1903, he early began the detailed investigations which established his reputation as a leading expert on water resources and stream flow in the northern plains.”

Chandler was the person who set the construction stakes for contractors for the initial construction of the Power House (later the Engineering Building) in 1899. Decades later, engineering students petitioned to have it renamed in honor of Chandler. The approval of this action was announced on the annual “Engineers Day” April 26, 1935.

Chandler’s achievements did not come without cost. In his book, A Century of UND Sports: An Athletic History of the University of North Dakota, Lee Bohnet wrote, “Engineering Dean Emeritus Elwyn F. Chandler, for nearly 40 years a faculty member, took his life in his garage Aug. 20, 1946, where he died of carbon monoxide poisoning. He was 74 years old and had lived most of his life with a physical handicap which came to be too much for him to handle after his wife of many years died in 1944. Chandler had actively backed athletics during his long tenure and had befriended hundreds of former U.N.D. athletes, who remembered him ‘for his optimism, his unfailing good sportsmanship, his enthusiasm and friendliness and capacity for work which was an inspiration to students and faculty alike.’”

–Richard Larson, UND Today staff writer