By 1901 the University's Department of Chemistry had outgrown its residence at Harker Hall and was in need of a larger and more modernized building. The state legislature, heeding these calls for a home capable of holding the new department and sustaining its continued growth, authorized $100,000 for the construction of a new building. Construction began almost immediately under the direction of Professor Arthur William Palmer. Palmer, who had founded the Chemical Water Survey of Illinois in 1895, was one of the most outspoken proponents of the new building and helped make it a reality. In the East entrance of Noyes hangs a dedication plaque memorializing Arthur Palmer and forever dedicating the building in his memory.
The low amount of funds meant that the building had to be designed as fireproof as possible, while at the same time, being capable of sustaining the department's growth for the next 25 years.
By 1916, the Department had already outgrown their new space, and on Wednesday, april 19, 1916 at 2PM, the addition to the Chemistry Laboratory was dedicated. The new addition connected at the wings and made the building a hollow square, centered around a large lecture amphitheater. The addition was supervised by Professor W. A. Noyes, and matched the original building almost perfectly in style to the point that today it is very difficult to determine where the original building ends and the addition begins.
Still deeply concerned with fireproofing, the two buildings featured automatic fire doors, which would close in the event of a fire to prevent it from spreading. The original lecture room was, in fact, remodeled in 1914 to make it fireproof. The renovations left the hexagonal room with 390 seats, while three other lecture halls seated 100, 75, and 60 students, respectively. The inner courtyard formed by the two buildings was finished in white enamel brick to reflect light into the buildings during the day for extra illumination. The old section was primarily used for laboratories, while office space, research labs, and a library and museum were placed in the new addition. The library was located on the second floor and had a collection of 3,500 books and 6,500 periodicals. The museum showcased a variety of minerals and commercial products. The primary storage facilities for the building were located under the lecture hall. The building also was home to the State Water Survey and the Department of Bacteriology.
The construction of the building involved an impressive amount of materials for the day. Over 2 million bricks, 75,000 barrels of cement, 33,000 square yards of plaster, 402 tons of structural steel, and 214 tons of alberene made up the building core, while 12.78 miles of electrical wire and 8.32 miles of electrical conduits supported the building's electrical needs, and 181 radiators provided 11,000 square feet of heating surface to warm the building in the winter. Two-tone oak furniture makes up some of the only woodwork in the building, while alberene is used liberally for tabletops and some shelves, windows, and sinks. Even Alabama marble makes an appearance in the windowsills of the main halls, the library, and offices, and milk glass is used for some shelves.
Laboratories in the building were ample and quite impressive. For example, the Division of Inorganic Chemistry and Qualitative Analysis could accommodate 400 of its 1300 students working in the laboratory at any given time. Each laboratory was laid out so that the instructor could stand at the front of the room and enjoy an unobstructed view of his students. Hoods were marvels of construction, with wood frames, alberene bases, white tile lining, and reinforced plate glass. Each had an independent exhaust flue leading to the roof and had an elaborate creosoted hemp rope with exposed pulley-and-axle mechanism for counterpoising to provide effortless operation.
Ventilation in a chemistry building is always a challenge, and the designers of the new chemistry building devised an elaborately intricate system to satisfy the life-safety needs of their new residents. Two massive ventilation fans, each having a capacity of 74,000 cubic feet a minute, were responsible for building air flow and were housed in the courtyard outside the lecture amphitheater. They forced air into each of the rooms in the building, changing the entire building air supply 6 times an hour. Both of the ventilation fans had heating coils to heat incoming air during the winter, controlled by automatic regulators. Four chemical exhaust fans, capable of 10,000 cubic feet each, were responsible for expelling the air from hoods via a separate ventilation system. Certain labs also had special negatively pressurized conduits to force the air in each room to be refreshed 8 times an hour. Even the bathrooms had a special exhaust system powered by a small fan in the attic.
The building was later named for Professor W. A. Noyes and still serves as the home of the University's Department of Chemistry. In 1930 the Chemistry Annex, designed by James White, was built directly South of the building and connected via an underground tunnel. On March 30, 1951, the $5.9M East Chemistry Annex was dedicated, giving the department its third major building. By the time of its dedication, the Chemistry Department had the distinction of having the most graduate students of any chemistry department in the world.
On September 14, 2002, Noyes Laboratory was designed a National Historic Chemical Landmark.
|Selected Images of Noyes Lab|
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