Schaeffer Hall

Schaeffer Hall

Schaeffer Hall

What You'll Find Here

  • College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • History Department
  • Political Science Department
  • Statistics and Actuarial Science Department
  • Classrooms and faculty offices


20 East Washington Street
Formal Name: 
Schaeffer Hall
Proudfoot and Bird, Des Moines, Iowa

The notion of the Pentacrest began with Charles A. Schaeffer, the University of Iowa’s seventh president (1887–1898). As part of a larger agenda to invest in the facilities and faculty necessary to make the University a national institution, Schaeffer brought in Henry Van Brunt, one of the architects of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, to judge a competition for the design of a new academic hall. Proudfoot and Bird’s winning entry began their long service as the University’s architects of choice and introduced a dignified Beaux- Arts Classicism that would become synonymous with the Pentacrest. Despite Schaeffer’s untimely death, a construction fire, and conflicts between the architects and contractors, the doors to Schaeffer Hall finally opened on January 23, 1902, providing a permanent and modern home for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), which was then known as the Collegiate Department. The College has called Schaeffer Hall home ever since, and the building underwent a com- plete renovation in 1999, marking a century since construction began on the original building. CLAS comprises the core of the University with 18,000 students, 660 faculty, and 45 departments (seven of which rank in the top ten nationally). As such, it is appropriate that, at the corner of Clinton and Washington Streets, it occupies the “cornerstone” position of the UI campus. Schaeffer Hall is the oldest University classroom building still in use for instruction.
Schaeffer Hall’s design signals a decision to define and ennoble the center of campus. By choosing to build in Bedford limestone instead of the more traditional red brick, on a monumental scale, and in the Classical tradition, the University lent Schaeffer Hall a distinction appropriate to its setting and to its potential importance in the life of the institution. On the east façade, a portico greets downtown Iowa City, and the frieze of the pediment, reading “Liberal Arts,” dramatically announces the building’s purpose. While the design is sympathetic to Old Capitol, the choice to move up one order, from wooden Doric to monolithic limestone Ionic columns, also expresses the transition from the older structure’s Greek notions of good government to Charles Schaeffer’s Renaissance ideals of education and culture. Referencing Old Capitol’s Doric prototype, the decorated pediment, ornamental globes, and horizontal scrolls mounting up to the now- removed central flagpole give Schaeffer Hall a sense of grandeur that amplifies the building’s message that art and science are essential to a democracy. The narrow end façades repeat the portico motif of the east front but with engaged rather than freestanding columns and without a pediment, which might compete with Old Capitol’s venerable image. The model is Ange-Jacques Gabriel’s façade of the Petit Tri-anon at Versailles. On its west or rear façade Schaeffer Hall trades the rectilinear for curvilinear forms with a powerfully projecting rotunda that unexpectedly introduces Baroque drama in place of the relatively restrained Classicism of the east front.


The building is accessible to persons with disabilities.

The accessible entrance is located on the north side of the building. It is equipped with a power door opener and leads directly to the building elevator.
Accessible parking spaces are located across the street to the south along South Capitol St. between the Old Capitol Mall and the Seamans Center for the Engineering Sciences.
Accessible restrooms are located in the basement.
The building elevator is located near the accessible entrance at the north end of the building.