This building, known originally as the Mackay Science Hall, was constructed to house the Departments of Chemistry, Mathematics, and Physics. These science departments were closely related to the Mackay School of Mines, one of the University’s most prominent divisions. The building was designed to give them more space and the most modern facilities, in order to augment the national and even international stature of the School of Mines.
The hall was a gift of Clarence H. Mackay, in honor of the University’s semi-centennial and the death of University President J.E. Stubbs, and in support of the Mines department. Mackay proposed the gift in 1924, but the building was not completed and dedicated until October 24, 1930, a date commemorated by a marble cornerstone set in the southwest corner.
The Board of Regents contacted several architects in 1924 to design a building in harmony with the Mackay School of Mines, and the designs were submitted for Clarence Mackay’s approval. Reno architect Frederick DeLongchamps’ plans were chosen, but it was not until 1928 that Mackay gave his permission to proceed with construction, the cost not to exceed a specified sum.
The new structure replaced the old Physics Building, facing the east side of the quad at the south end near Morrill Hall. The two-story Ionic portico on the west façade, and the brick window decoration with limestone keystones, continued the architectural theme of the Mackay School of Mines building. A false portico of Ionic pilasters was also added to the south elevation, continuing the even older theme of facing University buildings southward, toward downtown Reno. A matching Arts and Science building, also designed by DeLongchamps, was proposed for the opposite position on the quad, but it was never funded.
Mackay Science Hall continued in its original role for over 40 years. The interior was remodeled in 1962 under DeLongchamps’ direction in an effort to modernize the facilities. However, the continued growth in enrollment, particularly within the School of Mines, necessitated larger facilities for the science departments. Beginning in the 1970s, they began moving out as new buildings were completed. For a time, the building housed some divisions of the Medical School, Speech & Audiology, Rural Health, and Medical Technology. Today, it is home to the Department of Geography.