Another round of thanks to History student Christopher Russell for this great post on the centennial of Langton Hall. Good news — he’ll be back in the spring for another round of research and blog posts!
When William Kerr took over as President of Oregon State University in 1907 – then Oregon Agricultural College – the University was a very different place academically but also physically. Many of the key buildings that are seen as essential to OSU did not exist then. Kerr was remembered as someone who greatly expanded the college and it’s facilities, adding on buildings that are still heavily used today, from Waldo Hall to the Memorial Union. One of the notable buildings created under his watch, Langton Hall, marks it’s centennial anniversary this year.
Originally called the Men’s Gymnasium, the building did not change names until 1973 when it took on the name of the recently deceased Clair Langton, head of the department of Health & Physical Education from 1928-1964. Dr. Claire V. Langton had previously taught at the University of Michigan before coming to Oregon State and he was a firm supporter of the policy “every man in athletics”.
The Men’s Gymnasium quickly proved itself useful as it adapted to a variety of purposes. Until the creation of Gill Coliseum all commencements were held in the Men’s Gymnasium and it served as the home of all college and intramural basketball games too. Aside from more routine events like homecoming dances the Gymnasium was also host to other events like horticultural shows, which featured varieties of fruits, nuts and other plants.
Although visually similar, the Men’s Gym didn’t become the Langton Hall we know today until 1920 when several crucial changes were made including the construction of the pool and the addition of the west wing to the building. The swimming pool in particular was of great benefit to the swim team which gained in popularity following the pool’s construction. Holding 260,000 gallons of water, the pool in the Men’s Gymnasium was the largest on the Pacific Coast at the time of it’s construction and had a gallery that could fit 2500 people.
Langton Hall today has had some of it’s functions replaced by other buildings once Gill Coliseum took over commencement ceremonies as well as basketball games. The famed pool of Langton is no longer the only one on campus, but the building still serves as a center for intramural activities and physical activity courses (or PAC courses). Today Langton Hall stands as part of the building legacy left by President Kerr and has been named after a tireless OSU faculty member who was dedicated to the idea of students being involved in athletics, an idea that bears fruit every time a student enters through those doors.