|The Chemistry Building in 1943, seen from the Tower (looking northeast after a rare snowfall). The Physics Building (now Painter Hall) is on the lower left; part of Taylor Hall is across Speedway to the right. The empty lot at top is where RLM, Patterson, and Woolrich Halls now stand.|
The original five-story, E-shaped portion of the building, located along 24th Street at the corner of Speedway, was designed by Herbert Greene and erected from 1929-31. [See also the Greene Exhibit] Paul Cret -- the newly hired supervising architect of the UT campus -- was consulting architect. The Mediterranean Renaissance exterior style matched that of other buildings in the area. While not quite as striking as other Cret-era buildings such as Gearing (Home Economics) and W.C. Hogg, the future Welch Hall had some interesting features:
The interior was meant to be a state-of-the-art facility for chemistry: Professor W.A. Felsing travelled all over the country touring other labs to get ideas for the new building's practical layout and features. Every lab had direct pipes for natural gas, steam, distilled water, and compressed air. A ventilation system changed the air in every room four times an hour. The chemical engineering room even had a traveling crane. When completed in 1931, it cost over $900,000, at that time the most expensive building on campus. It was also one of the largest academic buildings on campus, second only to Old Main. The original wing was renovated in 1980-81 and 1986-88, modernizing its fixtures and systems.
The Chemistry Building received a new west wing in 1960-61, which added 42,000 square feet to the department. This wing is architecturally sterile, with little attention to the Mediterranean flavor of its older neighbors. A major fire occurred on the fifth floor of this wing in October 1996 - almost exactly 70 years after the Old Chem Lab burned down. A renovation project to upgrade building-wide safety systems and add a two-story "penthouse" for air-handling machinery was completed in 1999.
The 1978 addition, which added 247,000 square feet to the building, extends south along Speedway. This wing formed a new patio enclosed by all three wings of the building, under which the new Chemistry Library was constructed. Large university auditoriums are located on the ground floor of the newest wing. Greenhouses are located on the roof of the center section. The 1978 addition cost over $20 million and made the Chemistry Dept. the largest on campus in terms of floor space.