Part I - Department of Computing Science

Athabasca Hall - The University's First Building
Part I: 1906-1911
In 1906, one year after Alberta became a province, the
provincial legislature, under the leadership of the first
premier of Alberta, Alexander Cameron Rutherford,
passed an act to establish the University of Alberta.
The University's first classes began in September, 1908 in
Duggan St. School (now Queen Alexandra School) with fortyfive students and five faculty.
Queen Alexandra School (7730 106 St.)
Students and faculty met in borrowed classrooms on
the top floor of the school.
Queen Alexandra School (7730 106 St.)
In January, 1909, the entire University was moved on
one small truck to the Strathcona Collegiate Institute,
now Old Scona Academic High School. The University
would remain there for the next 2 1/2 years.
Old Scona Academic High School (10523 84 Ave.)
Although the building had three floors and was
described in the Edmonton Journal as "one of the
finest educational establishments in the West", there
was a need for the University to have its own space for
future growth.
Old Scona Academic High School (10523 84 Ave.)
In 1909, the Provincial Government allotted 258 acres
of land, known as River Lot 5, for the development of
the University.
Construction of the first building on the University
campus, an Arts and Sciences Building, commenced
with a ground-breaking ceremony in September, 1909
Premier Rutherford breaking ground in 1909
Shortly afterwards, a government crisis halted
construction of the building and resulted in Premier
Rutherford's resignation. His successor, Premier A.L.
Sifton, was wary of public spending. Construction of
the Arts and Sciences Building progressed no further
than a hole dug for the foundation.
The remoteness of the campus in those days (almost
two kilometers from the town of Strathcona) and the
difficulty obtaining nearby accommodation for staff
and students presented a major problem.
The University suggested building three residential
halls (complete with temporary teaching facilities) to
accommodate students and staff. The main campus
buildings would be constructed later. This idea was
approved by the Provincial Government.
Plans for the first residence, the Dormitory Building,
(later named Athabasca Hall) were drawn by A.M.
Jeffers, the provincial architect who also helped design
the Legislative Building.
East elevation of the Dormitory Building, April 1910
His plans were inspired by ideas from Percy Nobbs, a
professor of Architecture at McGill University and the
designer of the first master plan for the University
Percy Nobb's Master Plan for the University of Alberta Campus (1912)
Construction of Athabasca Hall commenced in May,
1910 and was completed by September, 1911.
Athabasca Hall under construction, 1911 (Accession # 77-177)
Upon completion, Athabasca Hall became the
University of Alberta's first building.
Athabasca Hall in 1911 (Accession # 90-60-8)
Although St. Stephen's College (then known as Alberta
College South) was completed in 1910, it operated as a
Methodist College, separate from the University. The
Arts Building was completed in 1915.
Alberta College in Strathcona, 1910
The University's Board of Governors was reluctant to
have Athabasca Hall built as a fire-proof structure but
did authorize the use of "wood of the type known as
Athabasca Hall, 1911
Fire escapes were not added to the building until some
years after its completion.
Athabasca Hall, 1911 (Accession # 77-36-1)
When Athabasca opened, it provided accommodation
for not only forty to fifty students but also the entire
Athabasca Hall
There were five laboratories in the basement, a dining
room for students in residence and kitchen on the first
floor, and a library on the top floor.
Athabasca Hall, Winter 1911. In the foreground are the foundations of the first Arts
Building which was never completed. (Accession # 81-85-2)
The administrative offices ranged from what one of the
first faculty members was to much later refer to as the
"President's lordly quarters down through the Dean's
more modest accommodation to our tiny dens", one of
the latter being originally designed as a washroom.
Rotunda, 1913
There were also seven classrooms "cunningly
distributed here and there in the most elusive places".
The student and faculty residences were on the first,
second and third floors.
Boys in Hallway
Athabasca Hall: 1906-1911
Slide show by:
Rob Lake (Office of the Provost and VP Academic)
Athabasca Hall: 1906-1911
Text by:
Keith Smillie (Computing Science)
Rob Lake (Office of the Provost and VP Academic)
Athabasca Hall: 1906-1911
Thanks to:
Jim Franks (University Archives)
Jodeen Litwin (Alumni Affairs)
Tashie Macapagal (Office of the Provost)
Rick Pilger (Alumni Affairs)
Steve Sutphen (Computing Science)
Kevan Warner (University Archives)