A couple of weeks ago, two of my library friends and I walked across campus to see the newly renovated Picken Hall. We went into the east entrance where we saw two touch screen TV’s, three computers, and an elevator. Walking up the steps to the second floor, we saw some beautiful stained glass windows and offices for Admissions, Admission Counselors, Financial Assistance, and Scholarship Services. The third floor housed offices for the Registrar, Academic Advising and Career Exploration, Student Fiscal Services, and the Graduate School. The Kelly Center, Drug and Alcohol Wellness Network, Testing Services and Prometric Testing Center, and Student Study Commons/Computer Lab were some of the services located on the first floor. There were also spaces reserved for Conference and Seminar Rooms.
Although it was great to see the “new” Picken, it also sparked memories of the “old” Picken. I had taken a variety of classes that were held in this building when I was a student during the 60’s. We also had band practice on the third floor on the southwest side of the building where the Registrar’s Office is now located. The floors no longer creaked, and all appearances of former classrooms had been erased. Although I was standing in the middle of a newly designed building, I knew in my heart that I would never forget the “old” Picken and the faces of friends who I oftentimes saw in those halls.
As far as history is concerned, Picken Hall was the first building on the campus of the Western Branch of the Kansas State Normal School (now Fort Hays State University). It was built in 1904 and was known as the “Administration Building.” In 1909, it was renamed “Picken Hall” in honor of Principal William S. Picken who was the school’s first administrator. Two wings were added in 1908, a lily pond was constructed on the east side of the building in 1922, and the stately columns on the west were added in 1926.
Picken Hall has been remodeled on several occasions throughout the years in order to accommodate classroom changes, services, and activities. At one time, the library was located in Picken which also had displays of natural history specimens. Plays were held in the Picken Hall Gymnasium. Then when World War II was over, the campus was swamped with servicemen who came back home to continue their education. Since few classrooms were available and there was a shortage of teachers, classes were oftentimes held in the halls. During the flood of 1951, the first floor of Picken was completely flooded. Since the damage was so great, the state architect recommended that it should be temporarily used and then replaced as soon as possible. However, this did not come to pass, and Picken Hall has continued to be an important landmark for Fort Hays State University. –J.A.S.