Pillsbury Hall, 310 Pillsbury Dr SE, Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Pillsbury Hall

Pillsbury Hall Current Image
Address: 310 Pillsbury Drive SE
Neighborhood/s: University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, East Bank, Minneapolis, Minnesota, University of Minnesota Old Campus Historic District, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Hennepin County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year built: 1889
Primary Style: Richardsonian Romanesque
Historic Function: College/university
Historic Function: Scice Hall, Animal Biology, Botany, Mineralogy and Paleontology, Student Health Service
Other Historic Function: Scice Hall, Animal Biology, Botany, Mineralogy and Paleontology, Student Health Service
Current Function: College/university
Current Function: Limnological Research Center
Other Current Function: Limnological Research Center
Architect or source of design: LeRoy S. Buffington & Harvey Ellis
Material of Exterior Wall Covering: Sandstone
First Owner: Univerisity of Minnesota
Part of the Site: University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

University of Minnesota, East Bank, University of Minnesota Old Campus Historic District Minneapolis Hennepin County

Pillsbury Hall, 310 Pillsbury Dr SE, Minneapolis, Minnesota
(44.976895° N, -93.234433° ELatitude: 44°58′36.822″N
Longitude: 93°14′3.959″W
National Register of Historic Places Information
Reference Number: 10240018
Reference URL: [Reference]
Certification date: August 23, 1984
Level of significance: National
Primary Style: Richardsonian Romanesque
Year/s of Major Alterations: 1889

Science Hall was constructed in 1889 according to designs by Minneapolis architect Leroy S. Buffington (the actual design is attributed to Harvey Ellis, a draftsman/designer in Buffington's office). The building was the gift of John S. Pillsbury in the amount of $131,000 for the erection of a Science Hall when state appropriations were insufficient. The building was named in Pillsbury's honor. Pillsbury Hall is the second oldest building on the Twin Cities Campus of the University of Minnesota. It is Listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings as part of the "Old Campus Dstrict".

The N.H. Winchell School of Earth Sciences is proud to have called Pillsbury Hall home for more than 110 years of its existence. Because of its grandeur, the building is a favorite among art and architecture students, photographers and mere passersby. It truly is a sight to see, each time one looks at it something new is discovered.



In 1887, the initial design was drawn for the the Science Hall, as it was originally called. Fires ere abundant on campus in the late 1880s, and during construction, the new Science Building was seriously damaged by fire. A major gift ($150,000) from Former Governor John S. Pillsbury allowed for the completion and fireproofing of the science Building, renamed Pillsbury Hall in his Honor. Before Pillsbury Hall took on occupants in 1890, the University had built a new coal-burning, central heating plant just south of Pillsbury Hall. This was good in that it diminished the risk of fire, however after only a few years the beauty of Pillsbury Hall was covered in black soot. In 1985, money was allocated to clean Pillsbury’s exterior. Everyone was pleasantly surprised to see that there were two colors of stone and in that discovery the intricate checkerboard patterns and flower designs were revealed.

Building Use

In the early days, Pillsbury Hall was home to animal biology, botany, geology, mineralogy and paleontology complete with lecture, recitation, laboratory, and museum rooms. In the 1920s the entire basement of the building served as the student health service with a 27-bed capacity. Today, Pillsbury hall is still home to the N.H. Winchell School of Earth Sciences, however only two components of the School are physically housed in the building: the Department of Geology and Geophysics and Limnological Research Center. Growth and modern technology have forced other laboratories to be housed elsewhere throughout the campus.

John S. Pillsbury

Pillsbury was born in Sutton, new Hampshire of English descent, the son of John and Susan (Wadleigh) Pillsbury. He was a descendant of Joshua Pillsbury, who emigrated from England to Newburyport, Massachusetts in 1640. He came to Minnesota form the Eastern U.S. In 1855 and settled in St. Anthony. The entrepreneur tried his hand at several different types of businesses. Pillsbury attended the University of Minnesota, where he joined Chi Psi. After the American Civil War, Pillsbury was elected as a third class companion of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. He served in the Minnesota Senate for several years before becoming the eighth Governor of Minnesota. He served as governor from January 7, 1876, until January 10, 1882. He was a noted philanthropist and often anonymously donated funds to causes he favored. In particular, he helped the University of Minnesota recover from debt in its early years, and later served as a regent. Since then, he has become known as “The Father of the University.” Pillsbury Hall at the University of Minnesota is named in his honor.


Pillsbury Hall is constructed from two Minnesota sandstones: -the "yellow stone" is Hinkley sandstone as seen in the old quarries in Banning State Park; -the "red stone" is sandstone from the Fon du Lac Formation Water filtration from the top of a stone wall can cause severe damage. So, as well as being aesthetically pleasing, the copper eaves and clay tile roof adequately protect the most fragile part of these walls. To support the clay tile roof, straight, 40 foot long wood beams were used. The high quality interior woodwork, now obscured by many layers of paint, is quartersawn oak. Cut of virgin materials and sawed in a manner to reveal the straight grain of wood, this method of cutting is no longer used due to its wastefulness. All of these materials date the building and contribute to its pleasant appearance and feeling. Entry to the structure is provided on the basement level through a low Syrian arched loggia set on squat, polished granite columns with foliate capitals. The first (main) level is entered through low receding arches placed in porticoes at either end of the central section. Each is decorated by carved pilasters and water spouts; the west entry boasts the carved head of an allegorical figure at the intersection of the portico with the tower. Stonework throughout is rusticated with the exception of the polished columns at the basement level and grouped pilasters between paired windows at the second level. Windows are divided into two sections by stone muntons and capped by massive stone lintels. A decorative polychromatic checkerboard pattern fills the frieze area about the second story windows in the central section.

Architectural Significance

Architectural Features

Pillsbury Hall was designed by Leroy Buffington and Harvey Ellis in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, and it also offers lessons in the forces of nature. The large rusticated stones on the lower portion of the building are undeniably anchored by the earth's gravitational pull, and the squat columns of the arcade appear to have narrowly escaped being drawn by that force into the ground. The massive arches of the entrance compress and narrow as they recede, exerting a visual magnetic pull on anyone who ascends the stairways. The structure, one of the university's oldest extant buildings, stands in the heart of the National Register-listed Old Campus Historic District, once the heart of the land-grant school. In the early twenty first century, the district is only a small sector of the sprawling campus, which boasts stunning newer buildings by many of the stars of the architectural firmament. Although they may be newer and shinier, this crop of turn-of-the-twenty-first-century buildings has done little to diminish the aesthetic and textural charm of the historic hall; in fact, they only serve to counterpoint its beauty. More than 100 years old, Pillsbury Hall remains a head-turner of a building and an expressive reminder that they certainly don't build them like they used to.

Richardsonian Romanesque

Richardsonian Romanesque is a style of Romanesque Revival architecture named after architect Henry Hobson Richardson (1838–1886), whose masterpiece is Trinity Church, Boston (1872–1877), designated a National Historic Landmark. Richardson first used elements of the style in his Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane in Buffalo, New York, designed in 1870. This very free revival style incorporates 11th and 12th century southern French, Spanish and Italian Romanesque characteristics. It emphasizes clear, strong picturesque massing, round-headed "Romanesque" arches, often springing from clusters of short squat columns, recessed entrances, richly varied rustication, blank stretches of walling contrasting with bands of windows, and cylindrical towers with conical caps embedded in the walling. The style includes work by the generation of architects practicing in the 1880s before the influence of the Beaux-Arts styles. It is epitomised by the American Museum of Natural History's original 77th Street building by J. Cleaveland Cady of Cady, Berg and See in New York City. It was seen in smaller communities in this time period such as in St. Thomas, Ontario's city hall and Menomonie, Wisconsin's Mabel Tainter Memorial Building, 1890.


Pillsbury Hall is located on Pillsbury Dr SE. It is part of the National Register of Historic Places as a contributing element to the Old Campus Historic District. The Old Campus Historic District consists of the oldest buildings on campus, it is located on the east bank of the Minneapolis campus in between Pleasant Street and the Bell Museum. Pillsbury is the 2nd oldest surviving building. The University of Minnesota is responsible for Pillsbury Hall and it is not in any danger of being destroyed.

Future Renovation

Pillsbury Hall, current home to the University of Minnesota Earth Sciences department and the English department’s future home base, will receive a revamped interior to accompany its historical facade come fall 2018. President Eric Kaler and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Karen Hanson announced plans for the renovation — which will begin May 2017 — at a Board of Regents meeting last week. The renovation is expected to cost $33 million. Currently, Pillsbury Hall is in “critical condition” according to its 0.69 out of a possible 1.0 rating on the Facility Condition Index. The renovation will focus on remodeling the interior of the building as part of an effort to improve University facilities, as outlined in the school’s six-year plan. The project will renovate 60,000 square feet of the building. Despite the building’s impending changes, one-third of the buildings on campus remain in poor or critical condition based on the Facility Condition Assessment. Instead, the University will pay $11 million for the project and request another $22 million from the state Legislature.

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