Lunt Hall

In his 1891 inaugural address, Northwestern University President Henry Wade Rogers issued a call for a new library building as part of his ambitious plans to transform Northwestern into a modern university. The library, then located on the third floor of University Hall, had outgrown its space; there was no more room for the growing collection of books and periodicals, nor adequate space for research and study.

Rogers persuaded one of the University’s founders, Orrington Lunt (1815-1897), to make a gift of $50,000 towards a new library. In addition to helping found the University, Lunt had been a long-time financial supporter and had served as President of its Board of Trustees. By 1893 the University was able to match Lunt’s gift with $50,000 in contributions and funds from its operating budget. William Augustus Otis (1855-1929) was chosen as architect and construction began in the summer of 1893. Otis had studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, had worked in partnership with Chicago architect William Le Baron Jenney, and was becoming known for his residential and library buildings.

Otis designed a three-story structure in the Italian Renaissance style with exterior walls of Bedford limestone and a red tile roof. The stacks and the reading room, located on the first floor, were designed to house 100,000 volumes and seat 140 students. The second floor held office space and a lecture room seating 500. The smaller third floor, occupying only the center portion of the building, housed the language departments. The basement provided more storage space and bathrooms. Ida Josephine Burgess, who had recently crafted murals for the woman’s reception room in the Illinois State Building at the World’s Columbian Exposition, decorated the reading room, the book room (the stacks) and the entrance hall. Lunt Library modern features included large windows for natural lighting during the day and both gas and electric lights for the evening. A book lift and speaking tube connected the floors of the building. Specially designed book shelves and tables for the stacks and reading room were among the building’s other amenities.

On September 27, 1894 the new library was opened and formally named after its primary benefactor. Educators from throughout Chicago and the United States were invited to attend ceremonies that were held in the new library’s lecture hall and at the First Methodist Church in Evanston. Students were given a half-day off in celebration. At the afternoon dedication ceremony in the assembly hall, Orrington Lunt officially presented the building to the University, accompanied by speeches and a dedication ode written and read by Emily Huntington Miller.

Over the years the use of the building varied. Not long after its opening, the University Guild began using rooms on the second floor for meeting and exhibit space. Until 1915, the Guild held its regular meetings and special programs in the library, and the Guild’s art collection, including objects and murals from the Columbian Exposition, were displayed there. As the library’s collection grew, especially after the turn of the century, most of the available rooms in the building were used for book storage.

By the 1920s it was clear that the University had once again outgrown its library. Under the leadership of University President Walter Dill Scott and University Librarian Theodore W. Koch, the new Charles Deering Library was built; it opened in 1933 and Lunt Library became Lunt Hall, Northwestern’s Administration Building. The second floor lecture room was partitioned into offices for the University President and other administrators. During the succeeding years, the building also housed the offices of the registrar and the Deans of Men and Women, and the alumni, publicity and business office.

From 1942 through 1945, as part of campus-wide mobilization during World War II, the building served as a barracks and dining hall for sailors in training at the Naval Radio Operators School in the Technological Institute. By 1950 Lunt was being used by the Mathematics Department and the School of Commerce and had a student cafeteria in the basement. From 1958 until 1970, it housed the Naval Science Department and the offices of the Naval ROTC. In the late 1960s Lunt became the focus of campus protests by students and faculty who objected to what they perceived as the University’s support of the military and the war in Vietnam. The NROTC offices were subsequently moved to other facilities. Today, Lunt Hall is occupied by the Department of Mathematics.

Lunt Library, Exterior, with Bicycle
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Quick Facts

Date: 1894

Architect: William Augustus Otis

Named for: Orrington Lunt, president of Board of Trustees

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