Skip to main content

Margaret Hall

Published onSep 29, 2020
Margaret Hall


Margaret Hall was the first “Ladies Hall” erected on Iowa State University’s campus. It was located where the current LeBaron Hall is located. Dr. Welch, the first president of the college (1868-1883), found that Old Main (a building on campus that had classrooms, office, dining rooms, kitchens and living quarters for both men and women) did not sufficiently accommodate both male and female students.  

The need for more housing on campus was discussed through Dr. Welch’s administration as well as many that followed him. W.I. Chamberlain, the fourth president (1886-1890), took it upon himself to write an “urgent” letter to the Board of Trustees.  In this letter, he urged for a Ladies Hall.   

It wasn’t until 1894, 4 years after Chamberlain was out of the Office of the President and during President Beardshear’s tenure, that Margaret Hall became reality. Construction began in 1894 and was completed in 1895 ready to accommodate 100 female students. The name, Margaret Hall, was a unanimous choice—named after Mrs. Margaret MacDonald Stanton. 

Photograph of Margaret Hall.

Naming of the “Ladies Hall”

Margaret MacDonald Stanton, was Iowa State’s first dean of women and the first wife of Dr. Edgar W. Stanton, who was a member of the first graduating class of Iowa State University in 1872 and spent fifty years working at the college in many different facets.  

Margaret MacDonald Stanton died unexpectedly on 25 July 1895. Her funeral was held in the College Chapel at Morrill Hall. Her funeral took the place of the regular Sunday service that day. The Chapel, with a 650 capacity, was filled with the entire student body as well as many townspeople.  She is buried in the cemetery located on campus.  

With the unanimous choice to name the Ladies Hall Margaret Hall, Dr. Stanton, in a gesture of appreciation for naming the hall after his late wife, wanted to buy a chime of bells to be placed in a tower that was to be added to the hall.  After it was determined that the building could not support the tower, a separate structure for the chimes was built nearby—the Campanile.  The first set of 10 bells are known as the “Margaret Chimes.”  They were installed in October 1899.  

The letter that E. W. Stanton wrote to the Board of Trustees after naming the dormitory Margaret Hall.

Living in Margaret Hall

When construction was finished in 1895, Margaret Hall had 44 double rooms.  Each room had single beds, commodes, study tables, three chairs, a rug and blinds.  

For the female students who moved into Margaret Hall, the cost was $3.00 per term.  These students were able to get their keys from the Steward upon a deposit of $0.50.  Talks on manners, social usages, health and self-care along with various other special interests were given each semester to the students living in the ladies hall.  

The School of Domestic Economy was also moved into one of the wings of the hall.  The School of Domestic Economy provided household training to help the female students with household management and cooking.  

Destroyed By Fire

In the late hours of Saturday, 10 April, 1938 and led into the early hours of Sunday, Margaret Hall was leveled by a fire.  At approximately 9:00 PM Saturday, a night watchman smelled smoke coming from an unknown origin.  Once it was determined there was a fire in the building, firemen were on the scene in less than 15 minutes.  After searching, they discovered the fire was in the basement of the building—in the hot water tank room.  Attempts to contain the fire to the basement failed.  Flames moved up the wooden framework of the building and quickly reached the attic, thus continuing to destroy most of the building.  The southwest wing of the building wasn’t completely destroyed by the fire.  

With the fire starting early night on Saturday, there were very few women in the hall at the time.  The women that were in the building at the time of the fire were awaken by the resident hall director.  They gathered up whatever items they could and were rushed from the building.  One student was able to save her thesis, which she had worked on for several years.  

No personal injuries or loss of life were reported from the fire.  

After the fire, President Charles Friley vowed that “no student will be forced to leave because of losses entailed by the fire.”  

The building was a loss.  Someone was heard saying “Margaret Hall was a beautiful old building, but it was the only women’s residence on campus which was not fireproof.”  

Relics from Margaret Hall

Professor Louis Thompson and his family moved into 414 Lynn, Ames Iowa.  Upon moving into their house, they found a medallion in their back yard.  Little did they know, the medallion was one of the medallions that decorated the front of Margaret Hall. 

Medallion that was found in Professor Louis Thompson’s back yard.

Fun Facts  

In the summer of 1906, during the midnight hour, when Lieutenant W. Langwill was working the night shift in the Fairmount Creamery Co. plant in Omaha, these verses came together to create The Road to Margaret Hall.  

The Road to Margaret Hall

By the College Campanile lookin’

westward through the trees,

There’s a Mag Hall girl a’sitting and

I know she thinks of me.

For the wind in the larch trees and

the bells they seem to call,

Come you back, you ’08 Senior, come

you back to Margaret Hall


On the road to Margaret Hall, when

the shade of evening fall,

Come you up, ‘round by the chapel,

on the road to Margaret Hall

She was tall and very handsome.  So 

she used to seem to me

When we strolled out in the moon-

light, and ’twas kind of hard to see.

Then we came out, ‘cross the campus

when the comes began to call, 

And we walked, a little slower, on 

the road to Margaret Hall.


On the road to Margaret Hall, when

the shade of evening fall,

Come you up, ‘round by the chapel,

on the road to Margaret Hall

Oh!  I’m sick of toil and worry, of the

drill and constant strife.

And I long for just one evening of 

the good old college life.

Yes, I’ve been up in the high lights,

and I’ve starred among them all,

But it’s nothing worth comparing to

the times at Margaret Hall


On the road to Margaret Hall, when

the shade of evening fall,

Come you up, ‘round by the chapel,

on the road to Margaret Hall

But all that’s shoved behind me, far

away, beyond recall

And there ain’t no walks a’leadin’

from my room to Margaret Hall

But the Campanile is calling, and it’s

there that I would stroll,

On the walk, ‘round by the Chapel, 

on the road to Margaret Hall.


On the road to Margaret Hall, when

the shade of evening fall,

Come you up, ‘round by the chapel,

on the road to Margaret Hall


Lasser, W. (1938, April 10). First Dormitory for Women Honored Wife of Dr. Stanton. Iowa State Daily Student

Byrnes, F. (1938, April 18). Extra!-Fire Pictures. Iowa State Daily Student.

Stanton, E. W. (Personal Communication)

Langwill, W. (Personal Communication, summer 1906)

Margaret Hall. (1868-1907). Retrieved from Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts

Jacobs, D. (n.d.). Margaret Hall Remnants Discovered in Sandpile. Retrieved from Iowa State University Special Collections and University Archives.

No comments here
Why not start the discussion?