Calvin Hall

Calvin Hall

Calvin Hall

What You'll Find Here

  • Office of Admissions
  • Office of Student Financial Aid
  • Registrar’s Service Center
  • University Billing Office
  • University College


2 West Jefferson Street
Formal Name: 
Calvin Hall
R. S. Finkbine, Des Moines, Iowa

Originally located on the Pentacrest, Calvin Hall is best known for its dramatic relocation in 1905. When Macbride Hall displaced Calvin Hall on the Pentacrest, it also took over its core functions. In a bold decision for the time, the teaching of science was not interrupted during that transitional period, with classes continuing to be taught in Calvin while it was moved across Jefferson Street at a rate of two feet per day. More than 1,000 screw jacks and an army of horses kept the building level and usable during this 105-foot trek to the north. Calvin Hall was eventually renamed after a distinguished faculty member who taught there—Samuel Calvin, a geologist and curator of the Museum of Natural History. Today, it contains a variety of student services offices. A boulder beneath the south façade commemorates the 1855 decision to admit women on the same basis as men; Iowa was the first state university west of the Mississippi River to do so.

A major factor behind the decision to move Calvin Hall was its Italianate red-brick exterior, which was out of place on the developing Pentacrest. The resources expended in that relocation illustrate the University’s commitment to campus architecture; not only did the administration carry through the plan for a limestone Beaux-Arts Classicism theme for the buildings surrounding the Old Capitol, it also recognized the worth of Calvin Hall and expended the resources needed to retain the older structure. The building is the oldest University building, excepting Old Capitol, and the best example of the buildings that once populated the Pentacrest.

Today, Calvin Hall stands as the sole surviving relic of the red-brick campus that once was. Calvin bears some curious ornamentation, including the three terra-cotta reliefs above the second-story porch; two spirals that flank a head in profile wearing a liberty cap (a pointed headpiece symbolic of the struggle for political liberty). Rising even further, the building is topped by a wide frieze, cornice, and gabled Mansard roof.


The building is accessible to persons with disabilities.

The accessible entrance to CALH is on the west side of the building and accesses the basement level. It is most easily reached by following the sidewalk from the Cleary Walkway around the primary south entrance to the west side of the building. The west entrance is equipped with a power door opener.
The nearest designated accessible parking is located in the Iowa Memorial Union Parking Ramp directly to the north. The vehicular entrance to the parking ramp is located on North Madison Street across from the Iowa Memorial Union. The parking ramp should be exited to the east from Level 4 in order to access Calvin Hall.
All restrooms are accessible to individuals with disabilities.
An elevator provides access to all four levels of the building.