Listen here to an audio introduction to the historic Holt Hall. Narrated by Professor Mark Trout.
Holt Hall was one of two dormitories built in 1910 on the slight rise that students called “Aggie Hill” at the Third District Agricultural School. Holt Hall sat on the west side of Old Main, the classroom and administrative building; on the east was its larger twin, Jackson Hall. Students soon nicknamed their school TDAS.
Holt Hall was named for James T. M. Holt, first chairman of the TDAS Board of Trustees who served from 1909 to 1921. An Arkansas legislator, Holt was also was an important leader of the Farmers Union, the organization that had lobbied the legislature to establish Arkansas’s four agricultural schools.
During its first two years, Holt Hall was a women’s dormitory while Jackson Hall housed men. In 1913-1914 when additional dormitories were built, it was decided to relocate women to the east side of campus and men to the west. Since male students had jobs in farm barns on the campus’s west side, the residence switch prevented men from walking near a women’s dorm on the way to work.
The arrangement was part of a general policy to segregate the sexes. The only time young men were permitted on the east side of campus was on Sunday. In the afternoon, men could call at the women’s dorms and invite a date to walk about campus, but only under adult observation.
Holt Hall was a two-story brick building with a flat roof, large windows, and a wooden interior, slightly smaller than its twin, Jackson Hall. The large windows were necessary for ventilation in an era without air conditioning. Little Rock architect T. M. Sanders designed the building, and the general contractor for construction was the Stewart and McGhee Company also from Little Rock. Construction cost totaled $13,928.
The building’s area of 5,144 square feet was designed for thirty residents, two per room. Over the years, however, large enrollments occasionally necessitated placing three or four students in each room, using bunk beds.
Jackson Hall and Holt Hall were not finished as students moved in on January 3, 1911, to begin the school’s first semester. Planned electrical and steam heating systems were not yet installed. For more than a year, students had to use oil lamps and candles for light and to cut firewood for portable wooden stoves to heat rooms. When the stoves were removed, the wall flues for stovepipes were not properly sealed. Students broke a rule against smoking by hiding cigarette butts in the gaps in walls. Years later, remodeling uncovered the evidence of their mischief.
Holt Hall was converted to offices for the English and foreign language departments in 1969 who remained there until Wilson Hall was completed in 1970. Holt Hall then became the home of the Social Science Division from 1970 to 1975, which then moved to Cross Hall
Holt Hall, along with Old Main, was torn down in 1975 to open the broad grassy mall in the center of campus that stretches from Harton Theater to Magale Library.
All photos are courtesy of the Southern Arkansas University Archives, Magnolia, AR.