Part II - Department of Computing Science

Athabasca Hall - The University's First Building
Part II: 1911-1971
When Athabasca Hall opened, it provided
accommodation for not only thirty-five men and seven
women students, but also all of the faculty except for
the University of Alberta's first President, Dr. Henry
Marshall Tory.
Dr. Tory lived nearby in the President's house, which
had been completed at about the same time.
Athabasca Hall also housed some of the domestic staff
and all of the University facilities.
Athabasca Hall, 1911
There were five laboratories in the basement as well as
what was termed a pressing room for ladies, a dining
room for students in residence, a kitchen on the first
floor, and a library on the top floor.
The living accommodation for students and faculty
was on the first, second and third floors.
Boys in Hallway
Dr. Tory chose the furniture for Athabasca Hall.
According to a report in the October 1911 edition of
The Gateway, "The accommodation provided for
resident students, if not surpassing, at least equals
that of any University in Canada."
Athabasca Hall stood by itself in the bush. There were
neither sidewalks nor roads, only trails between it and
112th Street.
Athabasca Hall, 1911
All supplies and provisions had to be brought in by
horse and wagons which in wet weather could get
stuck up to their axles in mud.
Assiniboia Hall nearing completion, 1912
Assiniboia Hall was completed in 1912 and Pembina
Hall in 1914.
Breaking ground for Pembina Hall, 1913
An addition behind Athabasca Hall to provide space for
a larger dining room and a gymnasium was completed
in 1914. This space was also used for examinations,
dances, teas and Sunday morning church services.
Athabasca Hall Annex, 1929
When the Arts Building was opened in 1915, most of
the facilities in Athabasca Hall, including the library,
were moved there making more space available for
student accommodation.
University of Alberta, 1919 (Arts Building in foreground)
Athabasca and Assiniboia Halls became the men’s
residences, and Pembina Hall the women’s residence.
The Athabasca Hall Annex provided dining facilities for
all three residences.
Pembina, Athabasca and Assiniboia Halls
According to one graduate of the mid 1920s, the cost
of room and three good nourishing meals daily plus
room maid service was forty dollars a month.
Athabasca Hall, 1916
(E.A. McKittrick Collection, Accession # 86-107-1)
Rooms on the south side of the south end of
Athabasca Hall were the most popular among the male
Boys in Room
In one well-documented caper, several men moved a
piano to the washroom at the south end of Athabasca
Hall so they could serenade the women residents next
door in Pembina Hall.
Boys in Athabasca (Heritage) Lounge, 1929
Unfortunately, while the piano was being moved, one
of the glass castors broke and made an unsightly
gouge in the hardwood and linoleum floors.
Athabasca Hall, 1919 (Accession # 82-85-2)
The students involved were assessed damages of 15
dollars each. The alumnus recalling the story remarked
that since "most have now gone to their Great Beyond
no names will be mentioned, but all became
outstanding graduates".
In 1914, Reg Lister was hired to take care of the
residences. His duties at Athabasca began when "...
eighteen students were in bed with mumps ... My first
job was to take care of them".
Athabasca Hall, 1920 (Accession # 82-155-91-3)
For a ten-year period from 1920 to 1930, Lister and his
wife lived in Athabasca Hall.
Athabasca Hall and the Boardwalk across Quad, 1920
(Accession # 87-37-1)
Among his many experiences over the years was a
steady battle of wits with the students over the issue of
liquor in the residences.
Athabasca Hall, 1928 (Accession # 69-18-34)
In one incident, an enterprising student slung his
mickey by a string outside his window, effectively
hiding it within the Virginia creeper.
Athabasca Hall, 1941
(Accession # 72-58-1623)
That evening, when his friends were visiting, he pulled
up the string only to find his mickey had been
mysteriously transformed into a brick.
Athabasca Hall, 1941
(Accession # 72-58-1624)
Lister recalled in his memoirs, "You have to play ball
with the students - not sneak on them. But if you catch
them fair and square, they will take their medicine."
Back of Athabasca Hall, 1941
(Accession # 72-58-1676)
Lister retired in 1958 and is remembered with respect
by thousands of alumni who lived in the residences
under his supervision. The dining hall west of the
Jubilee Auditorium is named in his honor.
Reg Lister, Superintendent of
Residences, 1914-1958
From 1941 to 1946 the three residence halls as well as
Corbett Hall were taken over by the Commonwealth Air
Training Plan.
Athabasca Hall, 1946
About 1200 men were housed and fed in two shifts,
cafeteria-style, in the Athabasca Hall dining room.
Athabasca Hall Dining Room, 1940-1944 (Accession # 72-58-479)
Following the war, Athabasca Hall once again became
a men's residence. The dining room held several social
functions and the Heritage Lounge saw many rousing
and enthusiastic sing-songs around the hard-worked
Christmas Party, 1947
Before the Students' Union Building (now University
Hall) opened in 1951, the basement was occupied by
the Students' Union, S.C.M., Evergreen and Gold,
Alarm and The Gateway.
Athabasca Hall, 1947
Athabasca Hall, 1948
In 1963, Lister Hall and the first two residences,
Alexander Mackenzie and Anthony Henday, for
undergraduate students were opened.
Athabasca Hall, 1950
Athabasca Hall and Pembina Hall became residences
for senior undergraduate and graduate students and
Assiniboia Hall was used as office space for teaching
Athabasca Hall, 1959
By 1971, the interior of Athabasca Hall – built 60 years
previously with a “wood of a type known as slowburning” – no longer satisfied modern fire safety
Athabasca Hall, 1967
Athabasca Hall was deemed unsafe and ceased to be a
student residence. With the exception of a few small
service units, the building stood empty.
Athabasca Hall, 1967
Although the students had moved on, the window sills
retained, as they do today, student-carved names and
Student-carved name on window sill
Plans were announced in 1971 to demolish Pembina,
Athabasca and Assiniboia Halls. A proposed new
graduate residence and social centre would take their
Athabasca Hall, 1967
Slide show by:
Rob Lake (Office of the Provost and VP Academic)
Text by:
Keith Smillie (Computing Science)
Rob Lake (Office of the Provost and VP Academic)
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)