Simons Hall (formerly Engel Hall, the Science Building)

Simons Hall Simons Hall Simons Hall
Simons Hall

Simons Hall 1975

Simons Hall

Simons Hall

Simons Hall (click thumbnails for larger images)

Architect: Raphael Knapp, OSB; renovation: Rafferty, Rafferty, Tollefson

Contractor: Local labor


See also St. John’s First Science Hall (PowerPoint PDF)

In May of 1909, Abbot Peter Engel, OSB, decided to proceed with plans to build a separate building for the sciences at Saint John’s. The site selected was about fifty feet north of the gymnasium where an old carpenter shop stood. The plans called for a three storey building with basement (60×100) and costing around $40,000. Material for the structure would be pressed brick with the floors and stairs of reinforced concrete (this was the first use off reinforced concrete at Saint John’s). Ground was broken on May 8, 1910 and work began rapidly. The only incident of note during the construction was the injury of the workman, Mr. Sebastian Meyer, who was hit on the head by a wheel barrow falling from the second floor. He was seriously injured, but eventually recovered.

On June 21, 1911, during an alumni reunion, the new Science Hall was dedicated and was readied for classes on the opening day of school, September 7, 1911. The meteorological observatory, since 1892 located in the tower above the main quadrangle building, was transferred to the top of the Science Hall and remained there until 1942. In the 1920’s a radio station with two transmitters was installed on the first floor. Radio WFBJ was one of the pioneer stations in the Upper Midwest. The first renovation of the Science Hall was accomplished over the summer of 1930. In 1941 a foundry was added on to the building greatly increasing the amount of space for the shop class to work. The foundry was converted into a chemistry laboratory in 1958. In 1967 the new science building was built and the old building was renamed Engel Hall. After the natural sciences moved to the new building, Engel Hall became the home of the social sciences and the art department. A new art building was built in 1988 freeing the space the department had used on the 3rd floor of Engel. In conjunction with the new art building Engel Hall was renovated to make the classrooms more up to date and accommodating for classes. 

In 1999, in recognition of a deferred gift by Bob and Anne Simons, Engel Hall was renamed Simons Hall. The remodeled Science Hall, designed by Marcel Breuer and built in 1965, was then renamed the Abbot Peter Engel Science Building (and commonly referred to as “Pengel” because of its abbreviation on maps and registration materials).

In October 2010 the north entrance underwent some modifications to correct a recurrent issue with storm water drainage.

Today Simons Hall is the center for the social sciences department (accounting, economics, management, sociology). Simons Hall is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.


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