Morrill Hall was the first building on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. A three-story (plus basement) “Second Empire”-style edifice, the building was constructed in 1885-1886 after the relocation of the University of Nevada from Elko to Reno, a process that began in 1884. Relatively few Second Empire-style buildings remain in Reno, making this a rare local example of this particular type of Victorian architecture. The cornerstone was laid on Sept. 12, 1885 and the building was ready for occupancy by March of 1886. Designed by Reno architect M.J. Curtis, Morrill Hall was built for the sum of $13,500 and originally housed the entire State University until the Agricultural Experiment Station (1889) and Stewart Hall (1890) were built. Neither of those remains standing.
Originally, the basement of Morrill Hall was divided into four rooms, with space for the janitor, storage, assay furnaces, quartz crushers, and workshops. The main floor contained the Principal's office (for the head of academics), a reception room, the Board of Regents' room, a library, museum, assayer's office, assaying room, weighing room, lavatory, and gymnasium. On the second floor were a large lecture hall and two classrooms, and on the top floor, two large apartments, a general assembly room, and an armory. All instruction was provided by two professors.
At the time it was built, Nevada was little more than a collection of rough mining camps and railroad towns. The new University hall symbolized the determination of the people of Nevada to provide educational opportunities for themselves and their children. The building was named after U.S. Senator Justin S. Morrill of Vermont, author of the 1862 Land-Grant College Act that made the founding of the University of Nevada possible.
Morrill Hall was extensively remodeled in the 1970s and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Today it is home to the University's Division of Development and Alumni Relations.