Daily Archives: April 18, 2020

Afternoon walk research challenge: what’s this building?

Here’s the afternoon walk research challenge I gave Public Services Archivist Rachel Lilley late in the work day on Thursday: what is this building, who is it named after, and what’s the story of the right side? Hint for the last is “food.”

She jumped right in yesterday morning — probably because I’d already sent her a Friday morning research challenge. 😆

Here’s what she wrote!

Hovland Hall* – designed by Portland architect John Virginius Bennes** – was constructed in 1919, and originally served as the home of the Horticultural Products department. In fact, if you look closely at a photograph taken of the building in 1920, you can see the name etched above the front entryway, complete with the Classical, architectural affectation of using “V” in place of “U.”

When it was constructed, the Horticultural Products building was incredibly modern, boasting thelatest equipment in its laboratories, and allowing for cutting-edge research. The laboratories were “well equipped for giving instruction in…fruit packing, vegetable grading and crating, and systematic pomology” (the science of growing fruit). The building was also equipped with a “40-horse-power boiler for high pressure steam,” and the “juice room” in the building’s basement allowed for the manufacture of “fruit juices, carbonated beverages, and vinegars.” From pressing and filtering cider, to canning berries, the Horticultural Products building left its students and faculty desiring little. In 1923, the west wing of the building was added; this space would later become the laboratories of the Food Science and Technology department. The nearly-$20,000 contract for building and outfitting the “annex” – the small addition to the right of the main entryway – included the purchase of a “modern cannery for instruction and experimental work.”

Over the course of the past century, Hovland Hall has seen a number of tenants. What began life as the “Horticvltvral Prodvcts” building became the home of “Food Technology” in 1941. By 1950, “Food Technology” was re-christened “Food Industries.” When a new food technology building – now Wiegand Hall – was constructed in 1951, the Farm Crops Department was relocated to Hovland and the building subsequently became the “Farm Crops building.” Farm Crops vacated the Hovland with the construction of the Crop Science building in 1982, and the Computer Science Department took up residence. The building’s present-day namesake is Dr. C. Warren Hovland, professor of philosophy and religion who taught at Oregon State from 1949 to 1986. Presently, Hovland Hall serves as both an administrative wing for Agricultural and Life Sciences, and the home of the Peace Studies program.

But this wouldn’t be a Morning Run Research Challenge, without a bit of a challenge! Just in front of the steps into Hovland, set into the concrete, is a mysterious plaque. It is four squares high, by four squares wide, and each square contains a number. Right off the bat, we can solve half the mystery. As expertly reported by Tiah Edmunson-Morton – SCARC’s Outreach and Instruction Archivist – the numbers on the plaque are an example of what is known as a fourth order magic square, “[adding] up to [the same number in] all directions, corner to corner and diagonally.” Historically, third order magic squares – three-by-three squares in which adding the numbers vertically, horizontally, and diagonally results in the same sum – were known in China as early as 190 BCE. Fourth order magic squares can be dated to India in the late 6th century, and examples of third to ninth order magic squares can be found in the Encyclopedia of the Brethren of Purity (983 CE).

The real mysteries of the magic square plaque outside Hovland Hall remain: who installed it, and when? As Edmunson-Morton surmises, it could have been the faculty or students of the Computer Science department. No definitive proof has yet been located, however, and this part of the mystery remains…unsolved.

*Fun Fact: Want to know more about buildings on OSU’s campus? Check out our OSU Buildings Histories Guide! The entry for each building includes information about the building’s namesake, date of construction (and renovations), architect, square footage, and often a picture! 

**Fun Fact, Bonus Edition: In total, Bennes designed forty buildings – plus ten additions and remodels – on OSU’s campus between 1907 and 1941, including the Armory, Agricultural Hall, Snell Hall, and Weatherford. An Oregon Encyclopedia entry written by SCARC’s own Director, Larry Landis, has more information on Bennes’s life and work.