Commentary
5:00 am
Tue November 5, 2013

Past and Present: Wichita State's Oldest Building

Fiske Hall has served many functions since its dedication in 1906.
Fiske Hall has served many functions since its dedication in 1906.
Credit Fletcher Powell / KMUW

The oldest surviving structure on Wichita State’s campus, Fiske Hall’s story began in 1904 with a donation from Charlotte Fiske of Massachusetts to construct a new men’s dormitory at what was then Fairmount College.

Architect Normand S. Patton designed a structure in a variation of the Romanesque style. Fiske Hall’s dedication took place on June 6th, 1906.

Initially, Fiske served as a dormitory, with a dining hall in the basement and rooms in the three floors above. A number of the wildest stories from this era involved a loose association of upperclassmen known as the “Yellow Dogs.” One article said that the upper floor denizens “could hardly be called apes and yet they were not men-- they were veritable missing links.”

During World War I, the Student Army Training Corps housed cadets in Fiske Hall. Facilities included an infirmary that remained in use through 1919 to handle influenza cases.

As Fairmount transitioned into the University of Wichita, Fiske transitioned as well as to become the home of the Music Department and organizations such as the Sunflower Newspaper. Fiske Hall housed military training activities during the Second World War, and after 1945, the R.O.T.C. occupied part of the building. Music education remained Fiske’s main activity, however, until the Duerksen Fine Arts Center provided a more substantial home for the Music Department.

As the University of Wichita became Wichita State University, Fiske came to house the departments of History, Philosophy, Geography, and, until 2003, International Studies.

Now a modest structure next to the Ulrich Museum, Fiske remains an important part of Wichita State’s built legacy, one that has a history far richer than many realize.