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A History of Lafferre Hall

Lafferre Hall's tower facing the Francis Quadrangle today.

Lafferre Hall’s tower — from the 1893 building — facing the Francis Quadrangle today.

When the College of Engineering broke ground and dedicated its 2009 addition, it had been 117 years since Jesse Hall architect Morris Frederick Bell first designed the “engineering building” on the Francis Quadrangle.

University Archives photo of the original 1892 and 1893 engineering buildings.

The original two buildings for engineering students were built in the late 1800s, including the tower facing the quad, which was part of the 1893 addition. (C:0/47/2, Courtesy of University Archives)

Construction of the original red brick engineering buildings on the Quad in 1892 and 1893 came on the heels of what has been called the second industrial revolution, giving a home on the MU campus to expanding engineering disciplines. Technologies that would impact daily life — electricity, combustible engines and the telephone — created the need for more engineers who could build and develop those technologies. Between 1859, when civil engineering was established at MU, and 1903, four additional departments were initiated: military (now naval sciences), electrical, mechanical and chemical engineering. Agricultural engineering was introduced in 1917.

The 1922 construct spread west behind the earliest of the two original buildings — the Mechanic Arts building — rebuilt at the same time because of a catastrophic fire in 1911. In 1935, two additional structures expanded the second of the two National Historic Register red campus buildings westward.

The engineering labs pictured from the southwest side of the building in 1938. The Lafferre Hall tower and the Switzler Hall bell tower can be seen in the background. (C:9/13/4, Courtesy of University Archives)

The engineering labs pictured from the southwest side of the building in 1938. The Lafferre Hall tower and the Switzler Hall bell tower can be seen in the background. (C:9/13/4, Courtesy of University Archives)

After World War II, technology moved onto the aerospace and nuclear age. Additions in 1944 and 1958 to the expanding complex — then called Engineering Building East — continued to the west. An entire new building, dubbed Engineering Building West, went up across Sixth Street in 1958 to house electrical engineering. That building was renamed the F. Robert and Patricia Naka Hall in September 2016, after 1945 electrical engineering alumnus F. Robert Naka and his wife.

Industrial engineering was added to the curriculum in 1958, followed by nuclear engineering in 1964 and the addition of aerospace engineering to the mechanical engineering department in 1967.

In a time when computers were an emerging technology, electrical engineering students work in a 1980 computer lab. (C:1/141/11, Courtesy of University Archives)

In a time when computers were an emerging technology, electrical engineering students work in a 1980 computer lab. (C:1/141/11, Courtesy of University Archives)

The last three decades brought the computer age and advances in medicine. Computer engineering joined electrical engineering in 1982, and computer science and biological engineering (partnered with Ag engineering) were added to the curriculum in 1995 and 1997, respectively, largely in response to expanding innovations in molecular and genetic biology.

Environmental engineering, added to civil engineering in 1998, rounded out the college’s current departmental offerings until the Information Technology program was launched in 2005.

Lafferre Hall's 1991 addition makes up the entire west side of the building.

Lafferre Hall’s 1991 addition makes up the entire west side of the building.

Prior to 2009, the most recent building addition occurred in 1991 — which most notably added Mizzou Engineering’s award-winning information commons and library, and Ketcham Auditorium — and was dedicated in 1995, completing the Lafferre Hall engineering edifice.

Lex Akers, the college’s associate dean for academic programs from 2006-2012, spearheaded the design of the first floor undergraduate labs and classrooms in the 2009 addition. He visited universities around the country in his quest to build a facility that would change the culture of the college.

Lafferre Hall's 2009 addition.

The 2009 addition is the newest part of Lafferre Hall. It was built nearly adjacent to and 117 years after the original 1892 building.

In addition to specialized areas for hydrology projects — a wet lab — electrical work, and smaller specialized lab spaces, a large open, central lab space with adaptable workstations dominates the first floor of the addition, something that Akers has championed since the beginning of the project. Students from different departments share the computer workstations in this lab, which are adaptable to various engineering regimens with “modular” instrumentation that can be switched out depending on the focus or topic of coursework or research.

On Oct. 16, 2014, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon convened a meeting of the state’s Board of Public Buildings in Lafferre Hall to approve the state’s issuance of $38.5 million for the long awaited and much hoped for repair and renovation of the 1935 and 1944 sections of the building. On April 13, 2015, Missouri legislators and UM System representatives joined UM System President Tim Wolfe, MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, Interim Dean Robert Schwartz, former Dean James Thompson and building namesake Tom Lafferre for a groundbreaking ceremony for the reconstruction.