Elwyn B. Robinson carried out much of his life work in Merrifield Hall. In fact, if the Department of History has to move, one of the greatest disappointments will be the separation from the space consecrated by the work of our predecessors in the Department.
Robinson's first memories are worth quoting:
"While we were getting settled in our apartment, we were also exploring the campus of the university. The lawns, large trees, and shrubbery were attractive in the late summer, and with no classes there were few people about. We gradually came to identify the buildings. My office was in the basement of Merrifield Hall, the newest and largest building on the campus. It had been completed in about 1928 [actually it was completed in 1929 ed.] and housed the College of Science, Literature and Arts, headed by Dean William Bek, a professor of German. Just to the south of Merrifield Hall was Old Main, the first building of the university. In it were the administrative offices - the business office, the president, the registrar, the extension division, buildings and grounds, and the stenographic bureau."
The rooms Robinson and Libby used in Merrifield are more or less the same as we use today: "The American history classes then met in Rooms 217 and 215 of Merrifield Hall. Room 217 had 66 seats and Room 215 had 40. Libby's classes all met in room 215."
Robinson experienced sometimes prolonged periods of ill health and the proximity (or as our administrators on campus here say "adjacency") of classes to the Department's offices benefited him greatly:
"I missed teaching all of January, the rest of semester, but went back with the start of the second semester in February. I was still very weak, and since my office was in the basement and my classes on the second floor of Merrifield Hall, arrangements were made so that I did not go back to the basement after my first class. Dr. Libby had two rooms for his office, side by side at Merrifield #221 and #223, with a door connecting them... It had Dr. Libby's desk, a worktable, and a lot of bookcases. The other room, #223, had bookshelves to the ceiling and a worktable. Its door to the hallway was not used. From the books on the shelves, I believed it was a workroom connected with Dr. Libby's editorship of the North Dakota Historical Quarterly. That publication of the State Historical Society was suspended for lack of funds in the Thirties, so the room was not much used. A folding army cot was set up there, and I would lie down and rest between classes."
In fact, the adjacency of the offices of History and those of Sociology, particularly the office of John Gillette, reinforced the strong ties between those two department. Libby and Gillette served on a number of dissertation committees together and produced some of the most successful early Ph.D.s from the University. The most famous of these, George R. Davies, completed the first Ph.D. from the University, albeit in 1914 -- over a decade before Merrifield Hall was built.