The Merrifield Move

It’s finally happening.  After all the bluster and delays, the department is finally moving from its long-held place in Merrifield Hall to O’Kelly Hall.  As my colleagues are slowly being moved out of their offices, I’ve been able to sneak in and get some final pictures of the offices before they are lost to us forever (how’s that for dramatic?).

It will also give me a chance to add some little odds and ends that I had meant to include in other posts about Merrifield, but had not for various reasons.

First, this note greeted me on my return from Europe:


As the days past the “faculty still in Merrifield” became less and less true as they moved, one by one.

One of the great offices on campus has been until recently occupied by Han Broedel our Early Modernist.  It has a bathroom, for one thing:

It is also, almost certainly, Orin G. Libby’s former office from the day that Merrifield opened in 1928 until his retirement in 1944.  I am basing this idea, Pausanias like, on a passage from Elwyn B. Robinson’s autobiography:

“Dr. Libby had two rooms for his office, side by side at Merrifield #221 and #223, with a door connecting them. The first was larger than the other with a toilet, important to me [Elywn B. Robinson] because of the frequent, urgent bowel movements [Robinson had serious problems with his digestive track nearly his entire adult life. ed.]. It had Dr. Libby’s desk, a worktable, and a lot of bookcases. The other room, #223, had bookshelves to the ceiling and a worktable. Its door to the hallway was not used. From the books on the shelves, I believed it was a workroom connected with Dr. Libby’s editorship of the North Dakota Historical Quarterly. That publication of the State Historical Society was suspended for lack of funds in the Thirties, so the room was not much used. A folding army cot was set up there, and I would lie down and rest between classes.”

The door linking the two offices was not used in recent times, but was still there, to the left of the tall bookshelf:

Dr. Iseminger, the most outspoken opponent of the move from Merrifield, has vacated his office.  He had been in his office since the mid-1960s.  His office was famous for a number of reasons.  First, he still pounds out missives on an old manual typewriter, so the office had a particular sound.  He also had a massive philodendron plant that crept around the top of the overflowing bookshelves.

Finally, the office preserved some of the original flooring in Merrifield Hall. The local rumor is that this was the surplus battleship decking installed as cost cutting measure (and perhaps salvaged from the 15 odd battleships scrapped at the end of World War I in accordance with the Washington Treaty including, ironically, the USS North Dakota (which wasn’t officially scrapped until 1931)).  Whether the floors were actually old battleship decking or not is relatively unimportant.  They are funky:

The move from Merrifield Hall is pretty sad.  The building was tied to the Department of History since its inception.  Moreover, by moving our department we will be separated from the departments most closely allied with the study of the past: English, Philosophy and Religion, and Languages.  But we’ve been promised a better future in our new digs in O’Kelly Hall including upgraded office space, better classrooms, and easier access to the Memorial Union food court. 


It’s still hard not to think that this isn’t an end of an era.  For more of my tribute to Merrifield Hall see: Check out Room 215, Room 217, Room 209Room 300, the hallways of Merrifield, and even Merrifield Graffiti.

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