GRAND FORKS — As the University of North Dakota prepares to add a new parking lot along Davis Drive in Grand Forks, Loren Liepold went searching for old remnants of a building more than 100 years old. What he found ended up being much, much more than a few bricks.
Liepold, with the help of others, found an entire section of Davis Hall, one of the first buildings to be constructed on UND’s campus in the 1880s.
“We’re really just trying to go through and get an idea of what’s here,” he said. “It’s kind of the last touchstone of the old, old campus.”
Davis Hall, named for Hannah Davis, who was appointed in 1892 as “preceptress of women and an instructor of English at UND, was the first UND dormitory. The building was built in 1887, but was torn down in the summer of 1965, according to UND archives.
“For years, it was an incredibly important building on this campus,” Liepold said, noting it where students, faculty, staff and even the president of the university ate lunch and conversed. “It’s just so cool to be able to touch that history from over 100 years ago.”
Darin Buri, geology library manager at UND, said the clay that was used to make the bricks for Davis Hall likely came from somewhere in the Red River Valley. He said much of the work would have been done by hand and dried by fire.
“The bricks that we have here that were made that way are very soft,” he said. “They’re not hard like the bricks we think about now in modern times.”
Buri said most of the bricks that were produced in the Grand Forks-area were stamped with the name of the brickyard owner. While they have yet to find a brick stamped with a name yet, Buri said the bricks were obviously handmade and likely made in the city in the 1800s.
Most recently, the area was a green space where students could hang out or where the theater department could perform in a show from time to time.
Now, the area will be turned into parking spaces. Liepold said the space will still be able to be used for performances as well.
Liepold said those who are helping to dig out the bricks will do their best to save everything they can for historical purposes and to help further students’ education in the geology department, but the whole of the site may be paved over.
“I don’t think that’s bad news, because it’ll be stabilized and still there,” he said.