Saturday, December 02, 2006

Buildings Tell Stories on UNR Campus

Mackay School of Mines, Reno

UNR looks like a college campus with its ivy-covered brick buildings. In fact, in the 1940s moviemakers thought UNR was such a picture-perfect college campus that it was the setting for several films including “Mr. Belvedere Goes to College,” and “Mother Is a Freshman.”

Much of the credit for UNR’s classic college environment goes to the heirs of Comstock silver baron John Mackay. In the early part of the 20th century, the Mackay family donated more than $1.5 million to establish the Mackay School of Mining as well as to develop the Quad, a science hall, and other campus buildings.

Noted 19th century New York architect Stanford White’s firm designed both the Quad (short for quadrangle, which is the large rectangular open area in the center of the campus) and the mining school. White was also responsible for the design of the original Madison Square Garden in New York.

The firm based the plan for the elm-lined Quad on Thomas Jefferson’s design of the University of Virginia Lawn, which is also an open expanse of grass lined with trees that serves as the heart of that university.

Most of UNR’s most historic and picturesque buildings surround the Quad. In fact, that part of the campus has been designated as a National Historic District.
At the north end of the Quad is the Mackay School of Mines Building, erected in 1908, and commissioned by Clarence Mackay, John’s son.

The mining school is a picturesque two-story, brick and stone structure with Georgian details that boasts four 28-foot Tuscan-style columns of Indiana limestone.

The building houses the DeLaMare Library, one of the world’s largest collections of mining books as well as the W.M. Keck Museum, which has more than 6,000 mineral samples and fossils along with historic mining tools and equipment.

Additionally, it is also the home of the Mary B. Ansari Map Library, which contains some 136,000 maps, and a pair of public exhibition rooms displaying an old-time mining engineer’s office and pieces from the fabulous Mackay Silver Collection.

The latter was designed in 1876 by the famed Tiffany’s jewelers of New York. The full collection includes 1,350 pieces crafted by 200 silversmiths over a two-year period, using 14,718 ounces of Comstock silver.

In front of the school is a bronze statue of John Mackay that is noteworthy because it was created by sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who later carved the presidential faces into Mount Rushmore (from 1927 to 1941).

At the other end of the Quad is Morrill Hall, the first building erected on the Reno campus after the state relocated the university to Reno from Elko.

Constructed in 1885, the structure is named for U.S. Senator Justin S. Morrill of Vermont, who authored the 1862 Land-Grant College Act, which led to the development of the University of Nevada and other colleges throughout the country.

Morrill Hall is a four-story brick building in the Second Empire architectural style. It originally housed the entire university offices and classrooms. The structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Other historically significant buildings on the UNR campus include:
•Lincoln Hall and Manzanita Hall (both built in 1896), which have served as student dormitories for more than a century. Lincoln Hall was constructed in a late 19th century architectural style known as Eclectic, which incorporated several popular styles of the time including Flemish gables, a Colonial Revival cupola, and Neo-Romanesque arches.

•Jones Visitors Center (1914), which was the university’s first library. It was designed by renowned Reno architect Frederick DeLongchamps, who was also responsible for the downtown Reno post office and the Washoe County Courthouse.

•Clark Administration Building (1927), which served as the university’s library from 1927 to 1962. The building is named after Alice McManus Clark, wife of William A. Clark, Jr., whose father was a U.S. Senator from Montana and namesake for Clark County, Nevada. Senator Clark was a wealthy 19th century mining and railroad magnate, who established the city of Las Vegas in 1905.

•Mackay Science Hall (1930), a Georgian-style building that was also designed by DeLongchamps. The brick and stone-pillared structure represented the final gift to the university from Clarence Mackay.

For a guided walking tour of the campus, contact UNR at 775-784-4700.

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