Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Newton Horace Winchell School of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Pillsbury Hall

Pillsbury Hall


Built in 1887, Pillsbury Hall is the second oldest building on the Twin Cities Campus of the University of Minnesota. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings as part of the "old campus district".

The N.H. Winchell School of Earth Sciences is proud to have called Pillsbury Hall home for the 111 years of its existence. Because of its grandeur, the building is a favorite among art and architecture students, photographers and mere passersby. It truly is a sight to see, each time one looks at it something new is discovered. Please enjoy the information below along with a few select pictures (more on the way). Better yet, come over and admire Pillsbury Hall with your own eyes.


Architect/Engineer: LeRoy S. Buffington

Architect/Designer: Harvey Ellis

Other local Buffington buildings include the 1881 Pillsbury "A" Mill near present-day River Place, as well as Eddy, Nicholson and Burton Halls here on the East Bank of the Twin Cities Campus. These buildings show the diversity of this architect who described himself as more of an engineer.

The Romanesque design of Pillsbury Hall is the work of Harvey Ellis who was employed by Buffington. In that employ, Ellis also designed a Romanesque home for the Charles A. Pillsbury Family. Ellis' chief design inspiration was the work of Henry H. Richardson who had designed Sever Hall at Harvard, said to be the specific source of the design for Pillsbury Hall.




The whole of the design of Pillsbury Hall is a mix of many design styles: the Romanesque of Europe as adapted by Richardson, the Prairie School style of Ellis, the English Arts and Crafts movement, Gothic, and Victorian columetric and architectonic notions. The variety in design is clear when one gazes at the gargoyles, carvings, flower designs, mosaics, arches and columns scattered throughout the exterior.






Pillsbury Hall is constructed from two Minnesota sandstones:

-the "yellow stone" is Hinkley sandstone as seen in the old quarries in Banning State Park

-the "red stone" is sandstone from the Fon du Lac Formation

Water filtration from the top of a stone wall can cause severe damage. So, as well as being aesthetically pleasing, the copper eaves and clay tile roof adequately protect the most fragile part of these walls.

To support the clay tile roof, straight, 40 foot long wood beams were used. The high quality interior woodwork, now obscured by many layers of paint, is quartersawn oak. Cut of virgin materials and sawed in a manner to reveal the straight grain of wood, this method of cutting is no longer used due to its wastefulness. All of these materials date the building and contribute to its pleasant appearance and feeling.



In 1887, the initial design was drawn for the Science Hall, as it was originally called. Fires were abundant on campus in the late 1800s, and during construction, the new Science Building was seriously damaged by fire. A major gift ($150,000) from Former Governor John S. Pillsbury allowed for the completion and fireproofing of the Science Building, renamed Pillsbury Hall in his honor.

Before Pillsbury Hall took on occupants in 1890, the University had built a new coal-burning, central heating plant just south of Pillsbury Hall. This was good in that it diminished the risk of fire, however after only a few years the beauty of Pillsbury Hall was covered in black soot. In 1985, money was allocated to clean Pillsbury's exterior. Everyone was pleasantly surprised to see that there were two colors of stone and in that discovery the intricate checkerboard patterns and flower designs were revealed.




In the early days, Pillsbury Hall was home to animal biology, botany, geology, mineralogy and paleontology complete with lecture, recitation, laboratory, and museum rooms. In the 1920s the entire basement of the building served as the student health service with a 27-bed capacity. Today, Pillsbury Hall is still home to the N.H. Winchell School of Earth Sciences, however only two components of the School are physically housed in the building: the Department of Geology and Geophysics and Limnological Research Center. Growth and modern technology have forced other laboratories to be housed elsewhere throughout the campus.


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