Happy Birthday Gilman Hall

Gilman Hall c. 1919

“You have been a beacon of light for the College of Chemistry for the last 100 years. Long may you stand.”

Gilbert N. Lewis, the fourth dean of the College, envisioned a “large new fire-proof chemical laboratory” when he first worked with University Architect John Galen Howard on the design for Gilman Hall. Chemistry research was exploding in Europe, especially in Germany, leading up to World War I. The University wanted to capitalize on that explosion and become the cutting edge chemical research facility in the United States. For that, it needed a new building. Gilman Hall, named for UC president Daniel Coit Gilman, was built during 1916 and 1917 and dedicated in the spring of 1918.

Gilman is a classical three-story building with a red missiontile roof. Its north and south gabled end wings flank a central facade of nine bays, defined by a row of engaged Ionic columns rising from a plinth formed by the rusticated basement.

Research which resulted in the award of two Nobel Prizes has been done in the building. Nobel Laureate William Giauque studied the properties of matter at temperatures close to absolute zero in his basement lab in Gilman Hall. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1949. The second Nobel Laureate was Glenn T. Seaborg whose lab was in 307 Gilman Hall. He won with physicist Edwin M. McMillan in 1951 for discoveries in the chemistry of the transuranium elements.

The Chemical Engineering Department (now Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering), housed in Gilman Hall, was officially recognized as a College department in 1957. Charles W. Tobias, the founding father of electrochemical engineering, had both his office and lab in Gilman Hall. His office was in the southwest corner on the first floor and his labs were at the north end of the attic on the west side.