The construction date for Hayes Hall is 1893, making it the oldest remaining building on campus. Built as a wood frame structure with a brick exterior that includes a distinctive carved stone archway at the center of its front façade, the original building included a basement and three stories of spaces to be occupied by students in Industrial Arts program, the Art Department and the Military Department who shared the building. Its original cost was approximately $55,000.
The main level of the building originally contained the public office for the Military Department and an extensive gun room that filled the rear wings of the building. Classrooms also occupied the spaces on either side of the main building. On the second floor, offices for the Art Department and the Rural Economics Office could be found, along with Art and Design classrooms and an indoor target range for the Military Department, found in the wing at the rear. Art classrooms and a large Engineering Drawing lab occupied the upper level and extra gun rooms and an officers’ room were located in the basement at the time of the building’s opening.
Hayes Hall got its name from Rutherford B. Hayes, President of the United States and three-time governor of Ohio, on November 17, 1891. President Hayes also served as a member of the OSU Board of Trustees. The association between President Hayes and land-grant education has to do with the fact that he served as the governor of Ohio at the time that the state accepted the federal Morrill Act, which established land-grant colleges including OSU across the country. The fact that Hayes strongly advocated for providing the students of Ohio with mechanical education further connected him to Hayes Hall since the building housed the initial Industrial Arts program on campus. The lower floor originally contained a foundry for the use of Industrial Arts students. Although Hayes knew of the naming of the building prior to his death in January, 1893, he never saw it completed. Hayes Hall was first occupied on February 1, 1893 after heat was finally supplied to the building.
Over the years, the uses of Hayes Hall have changed. From its initial occupation by the Industrial Arts, Art and Military Departments through the twentieth century to today, as the home of the Design Department, Art’s drawing studios and OSU general classrooms, many alterations have been made to the structure. A small portion of the northeast side of the building was demolished around 1936, and more extensive demolition of the wings that once housed the gun rooms in that same area occurred in the 1940s. A lean-to on the northwest side at the rear was also removed at that time. More modifications to the rear occurred in the 1970s when a new stair tower was added toward the back to enhance the building’s safety and efficiency and the lobby was dramatically altered by the removal of a pair of stairs that led to the building’s upper floors. Faculty offices were constructed in the two side wings of the main floor at that time. The building housed the History of Art Department throughout much of the latter part of the twentieth century and many alumni remember having classes in the reconfigured spaces on the upper two levels of the building at that time. While some of these changes have been furthered in two additional waves of renovation, much of the building is as it was laid out in the 1970s.
Despite the many changes that have occurred to Hayes Hall over its history, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 16, 1970 due to the fact that its front façade remains virtually untouched from its original appearance. Recent efforts to restore some of the eroding stonework on the arch and the stone steps leading to the building work toward maintaining Hayes Hall’s historic architectural integrity.