athabasca hall the university s first building part ii 1911 1971
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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.

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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 students.

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 piano.

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

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 departments.

Athabasca Hall, 1959

By 1971, the interior of Athabasca Hall – built 60 years previously with a “wood of a type known as slow-burning” – no longer satisfied modern fire safety standards.

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 initials.

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 place.

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)