EDMOND, OKLAHOMA — It’s been almost sixteen years since psychology professor Mark Hamlin had an office in the Old North Building on the University of Central Oklahoma campus in Edmond.
As he moves in he can still recall the old building and the classroom floors that used to sag ominously toward the center.
“You could take a pencil and watch it roll toward the middle of the floor,” says Hamlin.
From the outside it’s still the same structure, but after more than 17 years of work UCO’s Director of Architecture and Engineering David Stapleton says very little of the original building is left on the inside.
“Other than this is where a corridor once existed and these classrooms existed, this building is entirely different. It’s all new,” he says. “It’s a ship built inside of a bottle.”
As workers put the finishing touches on the President’s new office we marvel at the view down Campbell Street, part of the original design to connect Edmond to its college.
On the third floor Stapleton points out, “In 1893 that was where the President sat, under the tower.”
Old North, Oklahoma Territory’s first building for higher education, was built courtesy of local labor with materials shipped to them from up north.
The result, floors that weren’t quite level and beams lashed together to hold up the roof.
“If it didn’t fit you made it fit,” says Stapleton. “It was what was on the train. They didn’t have Lowe’s. They didn’t have Home Depot.”
You can still see some of those 19th Century laborers in the pictures University Archivist Nicole Willard gathered.
Old North began as the Normal Building.
It was the college for teacher training in Oklahoma.
Students called it the North Building for a while until enough generations had climbed the tower and attended wood shop classes in the basement, until there was enough new around it to call this grand old lady ‘old’.
Pointing to an old photograph Willard says, “You can see it looks just like a cathedral on the prairie.”
There was some talk about replacing Old North but it proved too powerful a magnet.
So there are still working class rooms in here.
Students can still cut through the building to get to the rest of the University.
The university president can still look out toward Campbell Street just like his predecessors from the 1890’s used to.
Old North survived its first century and now, finally, looks ready for a second.
UCO is preparing for a grand opening of the newly restored Old North.
In addition to a reception for faculty and administration, public tours are on the schedule February 23rd.
The final tally for Old North renovations came in at $14.5 million.