Peterson Hall on Northern Arizona University’s campus will be coming down to make way for a new STEM academic/research building.

The old men’s dorm, now used as department offices, will make way for a new 162,500 gross square foot building for multiple STEM disciplines, according to information given to the Arizona Board of Regents. The Board of Regents approved funding for the project during its Sept. 27-29 meeting at NAU.

The estimated cost of the building is $139 million and does not include the cost of demolishing Peterson. It will be financed through system revenue bonds. Details of what programs and departments will move into the building have not been fully determined yet. A demolition and construction date has not been set yet.

According to the Louie’s Legacy website, Peterson Hall was built in the 1960s as part of NAU President J. Lawrence Walkup’s campus expansion program. The building is located across Beaver Street from NAU’s North Campus Athletic and Recreation Complex.

The Board of Regents also approved the use of $17.4 million to renovate the third and fourth floors of the Science Annex, which housed the chemistry department. The area is currently not used. The building was constructed in 1968 and does not meet current building codes. The two floors will be left as open, unfinished office space until needed. The total space to be renovated is 34,115 gross square feet. The office residents of Peterson will be moved into the space while Peterson Hall is demolished.

According to “Northern Arizona University: Buildings as History,” the hall was one of a pair of new student dorms, Babbitt Hall, now Babbitt Annex, is its twin. Each three-story building had 84 rooms that housed 158 students. The hall was named for Andrew Peterson, a political science and education professor.

Andrew Christian Peterson served in the Arizona Legislature and was Speaker of the House for the 4th legislative session from 1919-1920. He served as the Arizona Superintendent of Instruction in 1920. He was member of the Graham County Board of Supervisors.

As an educator, he served as a principal at St. Johns, Eager school districts and at Gila Academy in Thatcher. He also served as the superintendent of schools in Spanish Fork, Utah. He became a professor at Northern Arizona State Teachers College in 1927 where he taught political science and education classes. He also worked with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to create an institute on campus east of Campbell Hall. That building is now gone and has been replaced by Wettaw. Peterson left NAU in 1944 and died in 1955 in Phoenix.

Peterson Hall has its own colorful history and sometimes went by the name Peterson Hotel. Its residents were known for their pranks, according to “Northern Arizona University: Buildings as History.” One winter, sometime near the holidays, students tied a sheep stolen from a local live manager scene to the apartment door of the resident family. The family, the Schnebls, woke to find both the sheep and a mess. The students paid for a holiday dinner for the custodian who had to clean up the mess.

According to Louie’s Legacy, during the 1980s and into the early 1990s residents in the hall held an annual lip-sync concert, known as the Peterson Jam.

The hall was renovated in the early 2000’s and became temporary office space for a number of departments as their own buildings were renovated. In 2004 it became the home of the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, Ecosystems Science & Society Center offices and offices for English and history graduate teaching assistants.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       The reporter can be reached at sadams@azdailysun.com or (928)556-2253.

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Suzanne writes about education and business. She covers the local school district, charter schools and Northern Arizona University. She also writes the Sunday business features.

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