History of the Boyd Law Building


Old Capitol 1868 - 1910Gilmore Hall 1910 - 1961Law Center 1961 - 1986Boyd Law Building 1986 -


1865 The Iowa Law School is founded in Des Moines.

1868 The law school moves to the Old Capitol in Iowa City.

1910 After outgrowing its space in the Old Capitol, the College of Law moves into the Gilmore Hall building on North Capitol Street.

1961 Again, outgrowing its space, the College of Law remodels a former dormitory building into a Law Center. Due to insufficient funds, the remodel falls short of desired space. The College of Law quickly outgrows the Law Center. To compensate, faculty & staff use closets for offices, and a quarter of the law library's collection is moved to off-site storage.


1974 Dean Blades charges a law faculty committee to study the law building's space.

1976 The faculty committee's report concludes that the building falls short by over 100,000 net square feet. The committee further recommends evaluating the feasibility of constructing additional space on site. The committee's report is transmitted, along with other self-study documents, to the ABA's Accreditation Inspection Team and the Association of American Law Schools. Also, in the fall of 1976, President Boyd assembles a special University Task Force on Campus Planning to address physical planning issues. The University's architects, the Hodne-Stogeberg Partners of Minneapolis, are asked to assist the Task Force by investigating the feasibility of an addition to Law Center building and evaluating alternative campus sites for possible new construction.

1977 In June 1977, the consulting architects for the University Task Force issue their report. They recommend that more than an additional 150,000 square feet is needed for the College of Law. Although the Law Center can be remodeled, it creates "sensitive design and environmental problems." The architects recommend constructing a new law building on a different site.

1978 In May, the ABA Accreditation Committee characterizes the Law Center building space as "woefully inadequate" and recommends that the University abandon efforts to expand or remodel it. They recommend a new building.

1979 In March, after reviewing all findings, the law faculty vote unanimously in favor of constructing a new building. The faculty makes its recommendation to the University. During the summer of that year, discussions with campus planners and University officials lead to a favorable consensus to construct a new building. Through an extended site evaluation process, a location south of the Main Library is presented to the Board of Regents in the fall. The Regents approve the proposal and allocate $600,000 to retain an architect. After a national search, the University's Architectural Selection Committee awards the project to Gunnar Birkerts and Associates of Birmingham, Michigan. For information about Gunnar Birkerts, click here.

1980 The proposed site location is reevaluated. It is decided that Burlington Street near the Main Library is not the best location. Another site, a 3.5 acre elevated plateau west of Riverside Drive and south of Grand Avenue, known as Varsity Heights, is selected. The site is approved by the Board of Regents in February. Then, in April, the state governor freezes state appropriations which means that $340,000 of the planning funds have to be returned to the state. However, the architecture firm completes its first design phase and submits its plan to the Board of Regents in June. The proposed circular structure offers 181,600 square feet of space over four and half floors. The Regents approve the design and add the new law building proposal to the capital requests submitted to the 1981 General Assembly. The appropriation request is $21,235,000 with construction to be partially completed by March 1983.


1981 The law building is one of four construction projects approved by the Iowa General Assembly and for which funding is authorized through the issuance of special bonds. However, only $28 million is granted for all four projects. Since the law building is projected to cost $23.2 million, the Board of Regents considers postponing the law building. However, recognizing the urgency, the Board of Regents approves emergency expenditures to keep the law project on schedule. The Board approves a $250,000 contract extension with the architecture firm so the design phase can be completed. The Board also approves $100,000 to clear the Varsity Heights site in preparation for construction.

1982 In his State Message delivered January 12, 1982, Governor Robert D. Ray recommends that the Iowa legislature authorize additional bonds to fund construction of the new law building. On August 9, 1982, the ABA's Accreditation Committee advises the University that if funding for the new building is not obtained by July 1, 1983, the College of Law is in jeopardy of losing its accreditation. Therefore, in October, the Iowa Board of Regents requests $24.65 million from the Iowa legislature to be raised by a special bond issue.


1983 The Iowa General Assembly passes a joint resolution authorizing the sale of bonds to fund the law building, and Governor Terry Branstad signs the bill on May 9th. The Board of Regents immediately invite construction bids. On June 14th, sealed bids from eight contractors are opened. PCL Construction Ltd of Minneapolis is the low, and winning, bid. Because its bid is submitted one minute after the official deadline, a lawsuit is filed. After a temporary stay and a hearing, the Board is permitted to proceed with contract negotiations because no fraud or favoritism is found. The Board can waive the irregularity of the late filing based on "public interest." Excavation begins August 15th with a groundbreaking ceremony held September 14th. The estimated completion date is February 1986.

1984 By mid-summer, concrete floors and external walls are in place for all five levels of the main portion of the structure. Also, utility, electrical ductwork, and communication conduits are in place.

Dean Hines guides tour of new building under construction.


1986 In March, construction is complete. In April and May, new furnishings for classrooms, offices, and library spaces are installed. The building opens for Summer session classes on May 28th. On October 18th, almost three years after construction began, the College of Law building has a dedication ceremony.



"Evolution of Plans for a New Building," 18 Iowa Advocate 3 (Biennial Report Issue 1978 - 1980) Filedocx PDF iconpdf

"New Law Building: Good News and Bad News," 19 Iowa Advocate 17 (Fall/Winter 1980 - 1981) Filedocx PDF iconpdf

"Hopes for Full Funding for Law Building are Still Alive as Planning Continues on Schedule," 20 Iowa Advocate [5] (Fall/Winter 1981 - 1982) Filedocx  PDF iconpdf

"Round Three Ahead for New Building Campaign," 21 Iowa Advocate 8 (Spring/Summer 1982) Filedocx PDF iconpdf

"Regents Renew Request for New Law Building: Outlook Viewed with Guarded Optimism," 21 Iowa Advocate 13 (Fall/Winter 1982) Filedocx PDF iconpdf

"New Building Under Construction, " 22 Iowa Advocate 7 (Spring/Summer 1983) Filedocx PDF iconpdf

"New Building Construction on Schedule," 23 Iowa Advocate 7 (Spring/Summer 1984) Filedocx PDF iconpdf

"Work Slows on New Building," 23 Iowa Advocate 6 (Fall/Winter 1984 -1985) Filedocx PDF iconpdf

"Opening of New Building Less Than a Year Away," 24 Iowa Advocate 3 (Spring/Summer 1985) Filedocx PDF iconpdf

"New Building to Open in May: Dedication Ceremony is Set for October 18th," 24 Iowa Advocate 5 (Fall/Winter 1985 - 1986) Filedocx PDF iconpdf

"New Building Opens to Rave Reviews," 25 Iowa Advocate 15 (Spring/Summer 1986) Filedocx PDF iconpdf

"High Points in the Dedication Year," 25 Iowa Advocate 2 (Fall/Winter 1986 - 1987) Filedocx PDF iconpdf

"The Boyd Law Building," 39 Iowa Alumni Review 18 (November/December 1986) Filedocx PDF iconpdf

Gebhard, David and Mansheim, Gerald. Buildings of Iowa. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. Pages 263-264 ©1993 by the Society of Architecture Historians. Reprinted with permission of Oxford University Press, USA. PDF iconpdf