Perspectives Online

Ag Hall on Ag Hill, Patterson Hall is 100 years old. By Terri Leith

Built in 1905, Agricultural Hall was named Patterson Hall in 1912. Above is the building as it appeared in 1915.
Archival photos on these pages courtesy of University Archives Photograph Collection, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries

1935 1940 1955 1972

If Samuel Ledgerwood Patterson had had his way, the building that bears his name and houses the administrative offices of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences would have been in downtown Raleigh. That’s one of many fascinating facts to be found about the building known as Patterson Hall, which this year turns 100.

Originally called Agricultural Hall and erected on what was called “Ag Hill” on the young land-grant college campus, the building was renamed to honor Samuel Patterson (1850-1908), who served as state commissioner of agriculture in the early 1900s. He is noted in the history of N.C. State University facilities as having influenced legislation in the area of agriculture and the life sciences and as having initiated progressive legislation such as pure food laws, tick eradication laws, the appointment of state veterinarian and entomologist, and efforts to arrest destruction of field and horticultural crops.

A rear view with water tower in 1917 and below is the building as it appears today.
However, former College Dean D.W. Colvard and co-author William L. Carpenter offer more detail in Knowledge Is Power, A History of the School of Agriculture and Life Sciences, North Carolina State University, 1877-1984 (published in 1987 by the N.C. Agricultural Foundation Inc.)

Agricultural Hall didn’t become Patterson Hall till 1912. “And it is interesting that the building whose location Patterson opposed should bear his name,” say Colvard and Carpenter, who also supply the following information in Knowledge Is Power:

Patterson Hall today
Photo by Becky Kirkland
In 1903, 16 years after the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts had been established and 14 years after it had opened its doors, the state’s agricultural leaders decided it was time for a new agriculture building, in addition to the one already in downtown Raleigh. The N.C. A&M campus’ teaching facilities for agriculture consisted of tiny Primrose Hall and some farm buildings but little space for classrooms and laboratories. In the General Assembly, Alamance County Sen. Robert W. Scott said there was a need for the building to be on the campus, and he introduced a bill to fund it from the legislature’s General Fund. Ultimately, as the bill moved through the legislature, it was amended so that the cost of the building — not to exceed $50,000 — would come instead from the agriculture fund, which itself was largely supported by a fertilizer tax.

Samuel L. Patterson, however, didn’t want the building to be over at the college, which was well west of the city, built on 60 acres of land donated by Richard Stanhope Pullen.

In 1905, two linemen work near the newly completed agriculture building (in background), built on the highest point of the campus of the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts.
Patterson’s arguments notwithstanding, the new edifice was placed even farther west than the rest of the campus at the time, and on top of a hill – at 420 feet above sea level, the highest point on the campus. To place Ag Hall on Ag Hill was in keeping with what was becoming a national tradition among land-grant campuses, say Colvard and Carpenter.

At a cost of about $43,000, Agricultural Hall was built during the 1904-1905 school year. It was modeled on the agricultural building at The Ohio State University.

Including the basement level, it was three stories of brick with granite trimmings, 208 feet long and 74 feet wide. Its basement housed classrooms and labs used by the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying. On the next level were the administrative offices for agriculture, along with agronomy classrooms and laboratories for what was then called soil physics and farm machinery. The third level was devoted to botany and vegetable pathology, zoology, physiology and veterinary medicine.

Agricultural Hall cornerstone is pictured above.
While meetings aplenty are still held in Patterson, and there are some classes there, it’s now an office building, for the most part. For a time, other university curricula have shared its office space – most notably the Department of Economics, later the College of Management. And now its upper floor, home of the Department of Statistics, is space overseen by the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, which shares the Statistics Department with CALS.

But Patterson’s main floor is still the location of CALS administrative offices, including the office of the dean and the offices of the College’s Academic Programs, the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service, the Agricultural Institute and, soon, the offices of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, moving from adjacent Ricks Hall.

Architect’s drawing.
The building’s façade has changed very little, even though between New Deal and state bonds, Patterson over the years has had some renovations, interior facelifts and exterior pruning and paving to accommodate the times.

Dr. Johnny Wynne is the 11th dean to hold office in Patterson. His predecessors are C.B. Williams (1917-1923), B.W. Kilgore (1923-1925), I.O. Schaub (1926-1945), Leonard D. Baver (1945-1948), James H. Hilton (1948-1953), Dean W. Colvard (1953-1960), H. Brooks James (1960-1970), J. Edward Legates (1971-1986), Durward F. Bateman (1986-1997) and James L. Oblinger (1997-2003).

In 1915, students went out back for some hands-on instruction in farm machinery.
Some say that Wynne is the 12th dean of the College. Around 1901, Charles W. Burkett, appointed professor of agriculture, or college agriculturist, by the state Board of Agriculture, directed N.C. A&M’s agriculture curriculum, oversaw significant growth in enrollment and agriculture course offerings and helped the students organize a chapter of Alpha Zeta, the agriculture honorary fraternity, according to Alice Reagan, in North Carolina State University, a Narrative History (1987, N.C. State Alumni Association). George T. Winston, N.C. A&M president, and some of the college’s agriculture faculty supported the notion of Burkett as dean, but the suggestion was met with resistance from trustees and some faculty.

Burkett resigned in 1906 never having officially served as dean. It wasn’t until 1917 that Williams, an alumnus of N.C. A&M, was elected first dean.

The ornate Corinthian columns of Patterson Hall remain true to the architect’s drawing
One hundred years ago, there were nearly 100 students enrolled in agriculture at N.C. A&M College. For fall 2005, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences projects an enrollment of 5,000 undergraduate, graduate and Agricultural Institute students.

In 1905, students came to Agricultural Hall to take their agriculture classes. In 2005, Patterson Hall is the administrative core of 22 departments, with classroom and laboratory facilities across the N.C. State campus, as well as 18 research stations, nine field laboratories and Cooperative Extension centers serving all 100 counties and the Cherokee Reservation.

Animal husbandry is now animal science. Agronomy has evolved into crop science and soil science. And zoology, botany and other agricultural and life sciences now are approached from the molecular level of genomics research in state-of-the-art facilities on that new land grant, Centennial Campus.

After 100 years, agriculture and life sciences at N.C. State are at the top of their game – and Patterson Hall is still at the top of Ag Hill.

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