Deady Hall

The First Building on Campus

Deady Hall, Eugene, OR 97401

Deady Hall was named after Matthew Deady, a prominent judge and politician in Oregon. For many years, this was the only building on campus and only received its name long after it was completed. However, the completion of this first building has a long and complicated story that is directly tied to the establishment of the University of Oregon.

Establishment of the University of Oregon

The interest in developing both the University of Oregon and Oregon State University was due to the public interest in the state university idea that was so great during the mid-1800s; thus, two projects were suggested almost simultaneously at the constitutional convention. The first plan called for the creation of an industrial university of Oregon which was to combine scientific research with extension activities for the benefit of the farmer. Two towns were considered but deemed inadequate (Marysville and Jacksonville). Consequently, early legislature passed a law that there should be no further relocation of the University during that session. In addition it became evident that with the very sparse population of the early 1850s that the future of the population and development was being too rapidly anticipated. Thus, at the state constitutional convention in 1857, it was decided that they would set aside this decision and created a provision to accumulate funds until there should be an amount for a suitable endowment of an institution and asked Congress for two additional townships of land. However, this was act was identical with what was later passed in Congress as the Morrill Land Grant Bill in 1862. With this federal act, Oregon was granted 90,000 acres of land. It wasn’t until 1868 that it was decided that the Methodist Church South at Corvallis (now Oregon State University). However, there was still the state endowment and that was what was pursed for what would be later known as the University of Oregon in Eugene.

During the mid-1800s all the colleges created at that time in Oregon were denominational (Willamette University—Salem, Pacific University—Forest Grove, McMinnville College, Christian College—Monmoth, Methodist College—Corvallis, Philomath College—Philomath, Albany College—Albany). Thus, in 1872, when the legislature began reinvestigating a university location to use the state endowment funds, a group of citizens from Eugene organized forces to campaign for a university in Eugene that would be non-denominational (i.e. not connected with any religion or church within Oregon). This group officially formed the Union University Association (UUA) organization with a board of directors. They led a strong Lane County delegation campaign at the September 1872 legislature meeting in Salem and created a bill that provided that the UUA should purchase a site and erect a building worth $50,000.

The Struggle to Build Deady Hall

In return for the location of the university in Eugene, the property had to be ready for the state by January 1, 1874. The bill included various sections, but the most significant was the paragraph which forbade the enactment of any sectarian religious tests for students or teachers connected with the university. To finance the state university the legislature passed a bill authorizing a bond issue ($30,000) in Lane County, with an additional $20,000 to be raised through private subscriptions. However, in the spring of 1873 a number of wealthy taxpayers objected to the county voting bonds for such a purpose, so the association decided to secure the entire amount ($50,000) by subscription.

The campaign moved along well at first, with 140 subscriptions totally $15,000, but the drive began to lag. So the early citizens decided to intensify their fundraising by holding various programs including a Fourth of July ball, strawberry festival, and women’s socials. In total, the citizens of Eugene raised nearly $20,000 for the construction of the first building.

Although the full amount was not yet raised, in desperation work began on the first building, Deady Hall, on May 7, 1873. By June, the brick work was begun and it proceeded smoothly through the summer. Then winter broke and with the resources gone, construction halted. Enough money had been raised to erect a temporary roof, which protected the half-finished structure during the rainy months of 1873-1874. However, for two years the hollow shell of the building stood idle and the first and second floors still needed to be finished in order to accommodate professors and students.

The UUA expected that the legislature would grant funding to finish the building since Eugene had fulfilled its promise, but in 1874 lawmakers refused the request. Thus, Eugene citizens faced another funding crisis and began another campaign to save the university. Since the initial $20,000 had come from the citizens of Eugene, this time an attempt was made to enlist aid from the whole county. However, the panic of 1874 made raising money extremely difficult and, in many cases, impossible. Many farmers simply could not afford to donate money to the cause and only a small amount was raised.

This is when the Judge Walton, a lawyer on the board of directors for the UUA, and Mr. Hendricks, founder of the First National Bank, formed the nucleus of the campaign—Hendricks handled the financial affairs, while Walton managed the field work of canvassing the city of Eugene for subscriptions. They were finally able to interest the County Council of Grangers with members of this organization agreeing to help by contributing an allotted number of wheat bushels. However, this was nothing new to Walton, as he had been taking other forms of payment as he toured the countryside including donations of cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, apples, and hops. Walton would then sell these items to the local store in exchange for funds for the project which he put toward paying the carpenters at work on Deady Hall. By this system of donation, enough money was secured to finish the frame work on the building and four rooms were completed.

Even the young school children assisted in the effort and contributed their meager savings of one thousand dollars. In the end, after all the canvassing and donations, there still remained money to raise. Finally, in 1876 W.J.J. Scott and J.E. Holt agreed to underwrite the final indebtedness of $5,000. Deady Hall was finally finished in summer 1876 and on July 20, 1876 the Board of Commissioners for the state of Oregon formally accepted the building and the University of Oregon was officially established in Eugene City. Doors were formally opened to the first students on October 16, 1876.

Troubles were not yet over, however, for in order to open the University on time, liens on the building had been given to mechanics and contractors that came due in 1881 and 1882 and the University was unable to meet the payments. This is when outside help stepped in when Henry Villard, builder of the Northern Pacific Railway, visited the university and was impressed with its possibilities. He personally subscribed the remaining funds (estimated at $7,000) to pay the workmen and later added $50,000 in bonds as the first university endowment fund for professors, equipment, scholarships, and construction of the second building on campus, Villard Hall, which was named in his honor.

Original Acquisition of University Land

The piece of land that the UUA chose in Eugene was donated by J.H.D. Henderson, former president of the short-lived and ill-fated Columbia College in Eugene City offered 17 ¾ acres.

Acquisition of Additional Land

The next major push for development of the University occurred in 1922 when President Campbell began a large campaign to raise funds to establish new buildings across campus. I’m still investigating when all these land purchases were made, but it did happen gradually over the years—it did not happen all at once.

Proposed Renaming of Deady Hall

In recent years there was a call for Deady Hall to be renamed, due to Deady’s connection to slavery and Chinese exclusion laws. However, he later changed his views later in his life and condemned anti-Chinese protests. Deady Hall was denamed on June 24, 2020 after a unanimous vote by the Board of Trustees. It has been named University Hall until a permanent name has been selected.

For more information about the proposed renaming of Deady Hall see the President’s Schill’s letter to campus, decision announcement, and the full historical report.

Story by Jennifer R. O’Neal, University Historian and Archivist