Past & Present: WSU's Fiske Hall

Feb 5, 2019

Just a month ago, the WSU departments of History and Philosophy returned to their old home on campus, Fiske Hall, after a several-year exile to other buildings due to major renovations.

Since Fiske’s construction in 1906, years of wear took their toll, and Fiske has received a stem-to-stern remodel in which the entire interior was stripped out, internal damage repaired, and new infrastructure installed. The process allowed us to explore aspects of the building’s history from traces of graffiti on old plaster to long forgotten textbooks hidden in the walls.

One thing in Fiske that did not change was the original wooden staircase. There had been fears that this imposing feature of the original structure would be replaced. Fortunately, that did not happen and work continued, with architects and contractors looking at photographs from the building’s construction to learn about how the structure originally came together. One old image that stood out was a work crew finishing up the plasterwork of the staircase. An integrated crew, with workers of color next to white laborers, was clearly proud of their efforts. The work crew of today was so taken with this image that they decided to photograph themselves in roughly the same location. This new image reflects today’s more informal culture rather than the posed formality of 1906. Still, the spirit and energy is the same, reminding us that renovations and remodelings, when done right, bring the past forward to shape our lives today.