Language Hall Leads the Way: A History of UF Buildings 101

Records and photographs in the University of Florida Archives document the early formation of the main part of campus, including the construction of Language Hall in 1913.  It was one of the first five buildings to anchor the campus and was located on the central plaza directly east of Science Hall.

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West and south facades of Anderson Hall, circa 1913

Both buildings were designed by  architect William Edwards, responsible for the distinctive Collegiate Gothic style found on many southern campuses, as well as for the architecture of county courthouse buildings in South Carolina.  The Halls, with their front entrances opening onto University Avenue, provided an elegant and formal view of the campus to passing visitors.  The two buildings formed gateposts for the plaza which was open to the street until 1967.

Until 1950 Language Hall was the main administration building with the offices of the President, the Registrar, and the Graduate School.  The building also housed humanities programs such as History, Languages, and Mathematics.  In 1949 the building was renamed Anderson Hall to honor James Nesbitt Anderson, who was the first Dean of Arts and Sciences and the first Dean of the Graduate School.

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Aerial photograph of the university’s central plaza, now the Plaza of the Americas, with Anderson Hall in the foreground (right) and Science Hall in the background, circa 1930s

Over the years the building has provided classrooms and administrative offices for the College of Arts and Sciences.  Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Yearling, taught a creative writing course there in 1938. The building housed the editorial office of the Florida Alligator newspaper and Florida Blue Key had its first meetings there.

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North and west facades of Anderson Hall, undated

The first university literary and debating societies also met there.  Since Anderson Hall had no air conditioning for much of its existence, it also became living space to pigeons who occasionally moved in when un-screened windows were left open for a breeze. These inhabitants led to a lice infestation in one of the classrooms in 1975.

In 1971 the second and third floors of Anderson Hall were seriously damaged in a fire.  At that time, 106 classes a day were taught there for more than 3,200 students and the building housed 67 faculty and staff.  The damaged part of the building was closed off until repairs could be made.  The undamaged portion continued to house Linguistics, Academic Spoken English, Women’s Studies and Gender Research, Oral History, and parts of Political Science and Romance Languages and Literature.

As part of a campaign to restore historic campus buildings, the university restored the Hall through a gift from Kenneth and Jane Keene in 1997 and state funding.  Anderson Hall was rededicated on April 5, 2002.

Re-dedication of Anderson Hall, 2002

[All photographs courtesy of the University of Florida Archives Vertical Files and Photograph Collection and the The 1975 Florida Alligator].

Submitted by Peggy McBride




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