Constructed between 1868 and 1873, Merrick Hall is one of the oldest buildings on the Ohio Wesleyan University campus.
The 19,684-square-foot building is named after Frederick Merrick, president of Ohio Wesleyan from 1860 to 1873. OWU historian Henry Clyde Hubbart described Merrick as the “Grand Old Man of Delaware” and a biographical memoir published after his death in 1894 states that: “Had an angel visited Delaware and asked us to name our best man and our most useful citizen, our people would have unanimously nominated Frederick Merrick.”
The building was constructed through an endowment fund and cost $40,000. It was built with materials from Delaware’s Blue Limestone Park. William Tinsley served as the architect, and the building is “Eclectic Elizabethan,” according to the historic inventory completed by Bradford Green in 1973.
“The building appears as though it was intended as the central section of the customary Tinsley three-unit college building,” Green wrote. “The narrow transitional blocks are there flanking the main bay in the center of the main facade pierced by a flat arched doorway. Most Tinsley-like are the gables, a set of three on each side of the building. These gables are the curvilinear type associated with German Protestant influence in Elizabeth’s reign.”
Merrick Hall originally was known as “Science Hall” or “Alumni Hall,” and it served many purposes before it was closed more than 25 years ago. Previous tenants included the departments of science, mathematics, geology, and zoology, alumni affairs, and a third-floor natural science museum also referred to as the “Museum and Cabinets.”
Hubbart wrote that the museum’s collection began in the late 1850s and was housed in both Elliott Hall and Thomson Chapel before being moved to Merrick Hall. The collection included natural history specimens, Paleozoic fossils, Ward paleontological casts, minerals, and more.
The next chapter in the building’s history was announced June 26, 2013, when OWU President Rock Jones announced the receipt of an $8 million gift from an anonymous alumni couple to fund the full restoration Merrick Hall.
The restored building is expected to reopen in 2015, when it will house elements of the OWU Connection curricular initiative along with state-of-the-art classroom space and elegant event space.
The project’s donors, though requesting to remain anonymous, have said they are excited by the potential of the restored building to enhance the educational experience for Ohio Wesleyan students.
“We can’t wait to see the renovation come to fruition and to see how students incorporate the new building and its technology into their OWU experiences,” they said.