The Preservation of History at University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Neihardt Hall
Sidney Wickham, History 250: The Historian Craft, Spring 2023
Attending a university is considered for most people, their most exhilarating point in their lives. It’s everyone’s home away from home, a place to live with friends, and develop into who you want to be. One of the most humbling and life-changing experiences happens in the dormitories at college, freshmen’s first year away from home. Although there are many dorms on campus, arguably none are as rich in history as Neihardt. During the first thirty years of the residence hall Neihardt, students specifically chose to live in it for its new and modern living spaces. As time has gone on, however, the dorm now sits empty waiting for another use. Looking at Neihardt as a case study, UNL has made great use of its older buildings during the development of student life.
Built in 1932, due to a lack of housing for women university students, Raymond (now known as Neihardt) was built with joint funds from the state and the University. In the past, many students chose to live in boarding houses, or sorority or fraternity houses on campus. However, as time went on and into the 1920’s, there were fewer and fewer boarding houses available, and plans were finally set into stone that the University would provide housing for women by building Raymond Hall. At the time, it was the only on-campus housing for women besides sorority houses. The Dean of Women at the time, Amanda Heppner, was one of the biggest supporters of building the dorms, as she was seeing how it was affecting the University’s female population, and wanted them to be able to have a safe place to live on campus. When the building was completed in time for the fall semester of 1932, it could only hold 170 women, with two women per room. Before Raymond was even completed, the architectural design accommodated for future dormitory wings that could be added to the building.
After Raymond Hall was completed, it held multiple living rooms, a laundry room, and a fully functioning cafeteria. In the early years of the building, it also held a wide amount of student life events, clubs unique to the dormitory (mostly sports for women in which they would compete against other sororities), and dances. In the basement, where girls used as a recreation space, they would play table tennis and would even have designated spots to meet with boys in the dormitories and specific times.
As the University grew over the years, three wings were built onto Raymond, including Heppner and Love, which were built in 1939, and Piper Hall was built in 1956. With many people’s views becoming more modern-based, some of the halls started to become co-ed. As a result, the name Raymond Hall, which was named after a well-known music professor, Carrie Belle Raymond, was changed to Neihardt, named after John G. Neihardt. After the change was made to Neihardt, it was differentiated to women’s and men’s floors. According to Terry Aakre, a resident at Neihardt in 1978-1979, “When I lived in Neihardt, our entire floor was all women. I knew most of the girls on my floor, and I was so excited to live in [Neihardt] that year because my roommate was one of my friends from high school.” She continued to talk about how the University made sure to keep the building well-kept, but the building’s uses for student life had also changed drastically. Aakre reflected on how the basement was known as the “hangout spot” for many of the people living in Neihardt or one of its wings and how they had a jukebox, table tennis, and most importantly, the best malts on campus. While many of the living rooms on the upper floors were also accommodated and made into housing for the Residence Advisors, there were still many places to meet up with friends on the main levels.
In 1970, Raymond Hall had become a dormitory for both men and women. The previous year, a major change had come to the University by the way of the Centennial Education Program, a program that gave students more of a “smaller college feeling” and to give students a more intellectual push. The idea was that since it was housed in Heppner and Love Halls, it would help also bond students intellectually and with six credits a semester, its hope was to encourage students to showcase intellectual abilities and skill in communicating. However by 1981, the program fell short and was ended. By 1973, the first and second floors of Piper Hall were used for a program known as the “International House” in which a room would consist of one domestic student and one international student, where one floor consists of all men, and the other consists of women. According to Pat Piersol, who was in the Centennial Education Program and more specifically, the Portuguese Program, in the fall of 1976, which was when the program was started, had their classes housed in Neihardt that year. Piersol remembers, “It [Centennial Education Program] was a concept started in 1970 whose curriculum was set up by students. It was very popular with 18-25 year old men who were having trouble keeping their grades up to avoid flunking out and being vulnerable to the military draft at the time.” Although the Portuguese Program was later moved to Andrews Hall and eventually to Richards Hall, it provided crucial background knowledge as to how student life was affected by world events as well as the dormitory itself.
By 1992, the Honors Program of the University wanted to include a housing component, and appointed Love Hall within Neihardt as the Honors housing. The Honors Program continually held honors classes within Neihardt and allowed students to expand their intellectual identities by being around other students who have similar goals to their own. Even though the dorm continued to grow older, students still found a multitude of ways to connect to Neihardt itself and the people around them. According to Ethan Rowley who lived in Piper his first year, and Love Hall his second, where he met his wife, Kristin, “We were just nerds in ‘Nerdhardt’,” Ethan said. “We’d play board games in the Sun Room, and she’d always be there.” Students not only met friends, but had romantic stories too.
During the worldwide pandemic, students needed a place to go. Knowing that housing was available in Neihardt, as it was the first year that it hadn’t been used as a dormitory, the University of Nebraska knew they needed to make special accommodations for students who either were studying abroad or international students (around 450 students) that had no place to go, therefore UNL set up Piper Hall. Piper Hall was a safe place that many of these students spent the remainder of their year. For most students, UNL asked that they leave the dormitories and campus to stop the spread of the virus. Specifically the third floor in Piper was selected as a safe place for students to live and quarantine at the start of the pandemic,and it was turned into single-occupancy in order to accommodate students that had been studying abroad and had tested positive or come into contact with the virus in some form. One student, Sierra Noble, who stayed there twice, said that, “The whole experience was extremely bizarre. No resident advisors were there and I had no idea who else was in there. It was really lonely at first, but I found a way to manage.” They provided them with appliances like a microwave and fridge, towels, and bedding sheets. Students were asked to bring their own bags and pillows. According to another UNL student, Tessa Calovich, “It was such a quick process. One second I had just received an email for UNL saying I tested positive, the next, I was walking from Schramm to Piper with my pillow and bag in hand. I even made a room tour video to show my friends what they were doing with students that tested positive. When I was there, there were not many people but I think there was an influx when I left and went back home.”
After COVID, many students seemed to forget about the building, and when future students come to UNL and they inquire about the building, Anna Ulferts, a student guide, refers to it as a “past dormitory, which isn’t being used currently”. Since the COVID pandemic ended, only two organizations have used the building, CARE and some offices for the Student Advocacy and Support Program. CARE stands for Center for Advocacy, Response, and Education, which help students with sexual assault and get students who have gone through this the proper help that they need in a safe and more reclusive environment. With them only using a small section of the main floor, the doors are locked, so students cannot wander to the dormitory parts of the building. When talking to various staff members about CARE, they talked about their love for Neihardt and how it provides a safe space for students. Many CARE workers enjoyed talking to students in the courtyard in Love Hall, where conversations could be private, but it was somewhere outdoors with a variety for greenery and squirrels to thrive.
When the semester of fall 2022 ended for students, safety precautions blocked students from the sidewalk that follows alongside Neihardt which ended up coinciding with the imploding of Piper Hall, the newest addition to the building in 1956. There was also the removal of a connector hallway from Neihardt to Love Hall. After talking with Meredith Cain, the Administrative Coordinator for CARE, she stated, “We have every intention to move back into the building when renovations are finished into Neihardt. As far as we know, we plan on moving back to Neihardt as soon as possible.”As of now, the space where Piper Hall stood will be converted into a larger green space for students. Although it is still unclear what organizations within student life Neihardt will house in the future; it seems that Neihardt is here to stay.
Although the building was only being used at the time for a few offices in October of 2022, it was extremely well-kept with two sunrooms being newly renovated and keeping original elements such as elements to the glass pane, lighting, and older staircases. Original door frames and other architecture elements were in great condition for a building of 90 years old, which keeps its historical and unique feeling on campus. After conversing with a former honors student, Emily Vanek, she remembers fondly, “Neihardt kept its historical element, while the upper floors where the living quarters were were much more updated, with magnetic key readers and doors with whiteboards on them. The floors felt like two different worlds.” It is unclear as to whether the building will be used further for updated dormitories or solely for other organizations to help students.
However, this is not the first or last building that UNL has protected from destroying important pieces of Lincoln’s history. UNL converted a struggling junior high school, Whittier School, into Prem Paul Research Center. Whittier School was opened in 1923 and was the first school in all of Nebraska solely to focus on the education of students in a junior high school. In the beginning, the Lincoln High School basketball team would often practice in their gymnasium. According to a former resident of Lincoln, Susie Wickham, “The Whittier School was always known as having a ‘rough’ population of students that attended there. It is so amazing how University of Nebraska-Lincoln has continued to preserve important buildings with history and put some love into them to reuse them.” University of Nebraska-Lincoln used a “little love” of 24 million dollars to approve the renovation of the building which is now used as a space for interdisciplinary research projects. Now the building is considered state-of-the-art and is used frequently by UNL staff and other important figures within UNL. Similar steps have been taken to upkeep the original University Library and the Nebraska State Historical Society, now known as Architecture Hall, which has been in use since the building was built in 1895. It was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1975 so that no demolitions or changes to the outside of the building and the main entryway inside of the building could be done. During 1985-1987, Architecture Hall had major renovations done to the interior of the building, costing 4.3 million dollars at the time, but it also connected Architecture Hall to the original building of Law at UNL to protect both of the buildings and allow students easier access in between the two buildings.
With Neihardt having over 90 years of history within it, University of Nebraska-Lincoln has done a phenomenal job over the years upkeeping the history of the building. It has not only provided students a place where they felt at home on campus not only if they were living in the building but if they were visiting friends, or finding a hang-out spot around campus. The University has stayed true to its heritage and its beginnings both within its own history and within the city of Lincoln’s history. Buildings are only the essence that hold the history and protecting it truly is for “dear old Nebraska U.”
1. Curtiss, Jay, More Than Just a Place to Live: A History of Raymond, Love, Heppner, and Piper Halls. Lincoln, NE, 1983, Digital Commons, 14-15, https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/univarch/1/, “Women May Sign Up For Rooms In Residence Hall,” Daily Nebraskan: Women’s Residence Hall Edition, May 22 1932, 1.
2. Curtiss, Jay, More Than Just a Place to Live, 21.
3. Curtiss, Jay, More Than Just a Place to Live, 25. Terry Aakre (Resident of Neihardt in 1978-1979), to Sidney Wickham, phone call. April 7, 2023.
4. Curtiss, Jay, More Than Just a Place to Live, 26. “John G. Neihardt Residential Center.” Pamphlet, 1973, Buildings and Grounds, Box 20, Folder 11, RG-52-02-00, Archives & Special Collections, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2. Pat Piersol (Part of the Portuguese Program located in Neihardt in 1976), to Sidney Wickham, Messenger. April 7, 2023.
5. “Honors Program: Program History”. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 2015. https://honors.unl.edu/home/ program-history. Ethan Rowley and Kristen Rowley. “Couple reminisces about the romance they found in Neihardt’s Love wing,” by Cristina Woodworth, The Daily Nebraskan. October 23, 2012.
6. Soo Rin Kim, Olivia Rubin, and Sasha Pezenik. “States look to closed hospitals and college dorms to meet coronavirus demands.” March 19, 2020. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/states-closed-hospitals-college-dorms-meet-coronavirusdemands/ story?id=69683447. Sierra Noble (stayed at Piper Hall twice during the COVID-19 Pandemic), to Sidney Wickham, Kappa Delta House. April 25, 2023. Tessa Calovich (stayed at Piper Hall during the COVID-19 Pandemic), to Sidney Wickham, Kappa Delta House. April 25, 2023.
7. Anna Ulferts (Student Guide at University of Nebraska-Lincoln), to Sidney Wickham, Kappa Delta House. April 10, 2023. Meredith Cain (CARE Administrative Coordinator at Neihardt), to Sidney Wickham, Louise Pound Hall. April 6, 2023.
8. Chris Dunker. “Here's a guide to construction to look out for as UNL students return for fall semester”. August 17, 2022. https://journalstar.com/news/local/education/heres-a-guideto- construction-to-look-out-for-as-unl-students-return-for-fall/article_8eaf86d2-1394-52f 4-9507-549710b22813.html. Meredith Cain to Sidney Wickham, Louise Pound Hall. April 6, 2023.
9. Emily Vanek (former Honors student and resident of Neihardt, completed her undergraduate thesis on a historic tour based on Neihardt), to Sidney Wickham. Phone call. April 5, 2023.
10. “Whittier Research Center”. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. https://research.unl.edu/whittier/irtc.shtml. “UNL City Campus 1869: Library (Old)”. UNL Libraries. 2005. https://historicbuildin gs.unl.edu /building.php?b=12. Susie Wickham (resident of Lincoln from 1962-1981, 1993-1994), to Sidney Wickham, Knoll Residence Hall. April 4, 2023.
- Aakre, Terry. Interview by Sidney Wickham. Phone interview. Lincoln, April 7, 2023.
- Cain, Meredith. Interview by Sidney Wickham. Interview. Lincoln, April 6, 2023.
- Calovich, Tessa. Interview by Sidney Wickham. Interview. Lincoln, April 25, 2023.
- “Carrie Belle Raymond Hall Has All Charms of Home on Larger, Grander Scale, According to Girl Residents.” The Daily Nebraskan. October 20, 1932. https://nebnewspapers.unl. edu/lccn/sn96080312/1932-10-20/ed-1/seq-1/#words=Hall+hall+Raymond.
- Dunker, Chris. “Here's a guide to construction to look out for as UNL students return for fall semester”. August 17, 2022. https://journalstar.com/news/local/education/heres-a-guideto- construction-to-look-out-for-as-unl-students-return-for-fall/article_8eaf86d2-1394-52f 4-9507-549710b22813.html.
- Curtiss, Jay, More Than Just a Place to Live: A History of Raymond, Love, Heppner, and Piper Halls. Lincoln, NE, 1983, Digital Commons, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/univarch/1/,
- “Honors Program: Program History”. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 2015. https://honors.unl.edu/home/ program-history.
- Jepsen, Sue. “1932-1983: Half century of changes have passed through hall”. Daily Nebraskan. March 28, 1983. https://nebnewspapers.unl.edu/lccn/sn96080312/1983-03-28/ed-1/seq-1/ #words=Hall+hall+halls+Raymond
- “John G. Neihardt Residential Center.” 1973. Pamphlet, 1973, Buildings and Grounds, Box 20, Folder 11, RG-52-02-00, Archives & Special Collections, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
- Kim, Soo Rin. Rubin, Olivia. Pezenik, Sasha. “States look to closed hospitals and college 10 dorms to meet coronavirus demands.” March 19, 2020. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/ states-closed-hospitals-college-dorms-meet-coronavirus-demands/story?id=69683447.
- Noble, Sierra. Interview by Sidney Wickham. Interview. Lincoln, April 25, 2023.
- Piersol, Pat. Interview by Sidney Wickham. Messenger. Lincoln, April 7, 2023.
- Ping Pong, Checkers, Are Very Popular Recreations. 1934. Bulletin of University of Nebraska, Camera Story, 11. Buildings and Grounds, Box 20, Folder 11, RG-52-02-00, Archives & Special Collections, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
- Raymond Hall- Dining Room. February 1948. Photograph. Pamphlet, 1973, Buildings and Grounds, Box 20, Folder 11, RG-52-02-00, Archives & Special Collections, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 34.b. Raymond Hall- Staircase. February 1948. Photograph. University of Nebraska-Lincoln Archives, Box 20 UNL Buildings and Grounds, Folder 11, 25.
- Rowley, Ethan. Rowley, Kristen.“Couple reminisces about the romance they found in Neihardt’s Love wing,” Cristina Woodworth, The Daily Nebraskan. October 23, 2012. The Girls Enjoy Their Party Room. 1934. Bulletin of University of Nebraska, Camera Story, 12. University of Nebraska-Lincoln Archives, Box 20 UNL Buildings and Grounds, Folder 11.
- Two Girls Studying in Room. 1937. Bulletin of the University of Nebraska: Won’t You Come Along with Me to See Carrie Belle Raymond Hall?, 7. Buildings and Grounds, Box 20, Folder 11, RG-52-02-00, Archives & Special Collections, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 2005. “UNL Historic Buildings: Raymond Hall”. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. https://historicbuildings.unl.edu/building.php?b=8 2&csrt=11002656898899159820.
- “UNL City Campus 1869: Library (Old)”. UNL Libraries. 2005. https://historicbuildin 11 gs.unl.edu /building.php?b=12.
- Ulferts, Anna. Interview by Sidney Wickham. Interview. Lincoln, April 5, 2023.
- Vanek, Emily. Interview by Sidney Wickham. Phone Interview. Lincoln, April 5, 2023.
- Vanek, Emily. 2018. “Raymond Hall”. Neihardt Residence. https://neihardtremembered.wixsite.c om/neihardt.
- “Whittier Research Center”. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. https://research.unl.edu/whittier/irtc.shtml.
- Wickham, Susie. Interview by Sidney Wickham. Interview. Lincoln, April 4, 2023.
- “Women May Sign Up for Rooms in Residence Halls”. The Daily Nebraskan: Women’s Residence Hall Edition. May 22, 1932. https://nebnewspapers.unl.edu/lccn/sn9608 0312/1932-05-22/ed-1/seq-1/#words=hall+Hall+HALL+RAYMOND+Raymond.