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third building on campus was a girls' residence hall later named Donaldson
Hall (1949) in honor of a deceased NMC English instructor. Constructed
atop the hill just north and west of Pershing Hall,
the building occupied a dominant position on campus. It was designed and
constructed under a Public Works Administration self liquidating load
fund. Furnished and occupied in 1936, it provided rooms for 116 women,
and was a social and elegant setting for college dances and receptions.
The living room was complete with a fireplace and attractive furnishings.
The entry hall of the building was always without lights and was mysteriously
known as the "Passion Pit."
The building cost $178,398.08. It was the first actual new building on campus. Gracious in appearance, pictures of Donaldson Hall were used in the NoMoCo student newspaper masthead for many years. Poor materials and construction methods caused problems with the building almost from the beginning. After construction of a new residence hall in 1971, Donaldson Hall was unused for residence space. The lower floors were rented to School District 16 A and other organizations.
In 1984, under the leadership of chairman Leonard Severson, the Alumni Association began work to remodel and restore the building.
The Association began a capital campaign to finance the project and solicited gifts from members during their annual phonathon and from their fall social and auction. They also borrowed funds from the Foundation. Students were hired to do much of the restoration work and a professional interior design firm recommended furnishings and window coverings that would recall the room's former splendor. Work on the kitchen area was completed the following year. Offices for the Foundation and University Relations Office were moved to Donaldson Hall shortly after the Commons restoration was completed. A few years later the offices for Northern's Cooperative Education Program and Career Planning and Placement Center were moved to the main floor of Donaldson Hall.
Future plans for the upper floors of the building are on hold due to lack of funds and the major reconstruction that would be needed under current building codes. The upper floors are currently used for storage. The basement level of Donaldson was remodeled in the mid 1980s for use as a dorm for junior and senior students. The space was no longer needed when enrollments dropped in the early 1990s, and was used for overnight guests visiting campus and occasionally by athletes who arrived on campus before the dorms opened for Fall Semester. When Morgan Hall closed in the fall of 2000, the Donaldson Hall dorm space again provided much needed housing for on campus students. In the fall of 2003 Morgan Hall was reopened and the basement rooms served as offices for various faculty and staff who were moved temporarily from Cowan Hall while the heating and air conditioning system for that building was overhauled.
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