Part III - Department of Computing Science

Athabasca Hall - The University's First Building
Part III: 1971-1996
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.
Students throwing water from Athabasca Hall
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
These plans met with considerable opposition and
were fortunately abandoned. A study was
subsequently undertaken to examine the feasibility of
renovating the three buildings.
Athabasca Hall, 1967
Due to its concrete structure, Pembina Hall was found
to be in excellent condition.
Pembina Hall
Although the brick and stone exteriors of Athabasca
and Assiniboia Halls were found to be in good
condition, their wooden interiors had deteriorated
beyond repair.
Therefore, it was decided as funds became available,
to rebuild both buildings, Athabasca first and then
Assiniboia, within their original brick and stone
Renovations to Athabasca Hall began in 1976.
Athabasca Hall Crane
The architect in charge of the restoration was Mickey
Holland, a partner in the firm of Bittorf-HollandChristianson Architects Ltd.
Reconstruction of Athabasca Hall
Poole Construction was selected as the main
contractor with Elmer Olsen in charge of demolition.
Demolition of Athabasca Hall
Demolition of Athabasca Hall
Demolition of Athabasca Hall
A crane removed the roof from Athabasca Hall and the
interior was completely gutted.
Reconstruction of Athabasca Hall
Roof of Athabasca Hall
Athabasca Hall had seven bays, and Olsen removed
three at a time. As the bays were removed, steel-joiced
concrete floors were added.
Athabasca Hall reconstruction
Athabasca Hall reconstruction
Holland later related, "Every floor in the building and
the roof were removed - right down to the bare bones
and a brand new building was put inside."
Interior of Athabasca Hall
Looking downward from the roof of Athabasca Hall
Construction workers rebuilding Athabasca Hall's interior
Athabasca's floors, when originally constructed, had at
least five layers.
Interior of Athabasca Hall
These layers included shiplag sheeting, wooden joists
and linoleum.
Reconstruction of Athabasca Hall
Construction workers rebuilding Athabasca Hall's interior
During the demolition, eight whiskey bottles, including
a 1926 bottle of Gooderham and Worts rye whiskey,
were found neatly concealed in the walls, ceilings and
1926 Gooderham and Worts Rye Whiskey Bottle
All the stained glass from the foyer, the wood paneling
in the library and the fireplace were preserved.
Fireplace and lobby, after restoration
The main floor lounge, now known as Heritage Lounge,
was also preserved.
Heritage Lounge, after restoration
An elevator was installed beside the preserved and
now ornamental fireplace.
Fireplace, lobby and elevator after restoration
Holland later referred to the restoration work as among
the "toughest I've done" because older buildings
lacked construction standards.
Athabasca Hall, after restoration
Despite the stress caused by the demolition and
reconstruction, not a crack was found along the
exterior brick and stone shell.
Athabasca Hall, in winter
The total renovation of Athabasca Hall cost about two
million dollars and provided about 47,500 square feet
of space.
Athabasca Hall, around 1982
The building was officially opened on October 8, 1977
by Premier Peter Lougheed, himself a resident of
Athabasca Hall thirty years previously.
Invitation to the official reopening of Athabasca Hall
For his work in the renovation of the two buildings
Mickey Holland received a Heritage Canada Medal in
Architect Mickey Holland sitting in the restored Heritage Lounge
The University also received a Heritage Canada Award
of Honour for the restoration of Athabasca Hall.
Presentation of the Heritage Award of Honour at Rideau Hall, Ottawa
A certificate, and a large bronze plaque, now mounted
outside the main entrance to Athabasca Hall, were
presented at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.
Heritage Canada Award of Honour Plaque
Between 1977 and 1996, the newly renovated
Athabasca Hall was occupied by the Chancellor's
Office and Senate, and a number of departments
providing administrative services.
Athabasca Hall, 1985
Athabasca Hall, 1988
These departments included University Press, Student
Counselling, Advisor on Native Affairs, Public
Relations, Alumni Affairs, the Development Office, and
the Office of Human Rights.
Athabasca Hall, 1994
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)