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Eastern Michigan University
Ypsilanti, MI, USA 48197
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Virtual Tour
Historic Tour > Virtual Tour > Sherzer Hall

Sherzer Hall

Sherzer Hall - earlier
Sherzer Hall - present

Sherzer Hall (earlier)

Sherzer Hall (present)
Historical Names: Natural Science Building (changed in 1957)

Date constructed: 1903

Architect: E. W. Arnold of Battle Creek. Design suggested by William Sherzer (drawn on the back of an envelope)

Style of Architecture: Late Nineteenth Century Eclectic with elements of Georgian Revival and Victorian Romanesque arched doorway.

Original Use: Contained natural science laboratories and classrooms.

Dates of renovation: 1957 renovated for natural science department and became new quarters for college field services. Burned March 9, 1989 but was rebuilt and reopened on October 27, 1990

Current Use: Art Department studios and classrooms. Observatory on roof.

Dr. William H. Sherzer

Dr. William H. Sherzer
Sherzer Hall - Laboratory

Sherzer Hall - Laboratory
Sherzer Hall's Observatory

Rooftop Observatory of Sherzer Hall

National Register of Historic Place: 1984

History: Named for Dr. William H. Sherzer, professor of geology and head of Department of Natural Sciences (1892-1932). He had studied in Germany with his friend Edwin A. Strong (see Strong Hall). According to legend Dr. Sherzer sketched a plan for the new Natural Science Building on the back of an envelope based on the science buildings he saw when he studied in Germany. The 1902 Aurora, Michigan Normal’s yearbook, wrote that “Externally the new Natural Science Building will be of good proportions, but will be plain and substantial rather than elegant. Indeed, it will appear what it is, a place for serious work.”

Dr. Lewis Henry Jones, president of the university 1903-11, dreamed of expanding Michigan Normal College as the school was then called. He hoped to build not only a science building but also an auditorium and a new laboratory school. By the turn of the century, however, there were three other teacher training programs in the state and funding was becoming more restricted. Jones only managed to finance the new science building. His primary contribution to the school, both through the new building and through new classes, was to broaden the college curriculum.

Original plans placed classrooms on the first floor and offices for the professors above. Plans of the building show that some of the second floor offices were connected to the classrooms below by small private staircases. These private staircases allowed the professors to avoid the crush of students in the hallways before classes. College enrollment expanded rapidly at the turn of the century and overcrowding became a problem at Normal. Classes sometimes had more than 60 students and halls filled almost to bursting between classes. The building provided for the growing needs of the college. In 1922, the Natural Science Building was further updated when a 10-inch refractor telescope was installed on roof of building.

Sherzer Hall burning
Sherzer Hall destroyed

Sherzer Hall Burns On
March 9th, 1989

50% of the exterior & 70%
of the interior was destroyed

The building sustained two fires. In 1973 a small fire caused $10,000 of damage all of which was completely restored. On March 9, 1989, however, the building burned almost to the ground. 50% of the exterior and 70% of the interior was destroyed. In a dramatic story of restoration, the building was entirely rebuilt in 18 months. During the rebuilding, the old wood floors were replaced with concrete slabs and an elevator shaft was added to the building. Quinn Evans Architects and Eastern Michigan University received joint recognition for the excellent reproduction of Sherzer Hall’s original masonry techniques. They received special recognition from the Masonry Institute in 1992. Built for $55,000 in 1903, the building was rebuilt 87 years later for 5.5 million.

In 1992 EMU Art Department moved to Sherzer. Today, however, the building still maintains ties to its scientific heritage though its rooftop observatory. In December 1997 a new radio telescope was installed on the roof to collect radio waves created by celestial objects.

Location - Sherzer Hall


Location of Sherzer Hall (Click on the image for a bigger view)