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Mills Hall is the oldest building on campus and originally housed all campus functions for the college when it was completed in 1871. Designed by S. C. Bugbee and Sons, it was located in an open meadow between two creeks, Leona Creek and Chimes Creek. Mills Hall is a 46,000 square foot structure of three floors plus a partial fourth floor residential quarters area. The Mills family lived in the building throughout their residence on campus.
Built in the Second Empire style, Mills Hall is symmetrical and massive: four-stories, flanked by a three-story volume, are topped topped by a mansard roof of wood shingles punctuated with circular arched windows. The bays at each end of the building have symmetrically placed bay windows. The windows on the rest of the building are articulated by shallower arch and are topped by decorative elements. On the main facade, the central portion of the building is visually and functionally connected to the wings with covered porches. Bay windows also flank the sides and a short wing that extends northward off the rear of the building. The exterior walls are made of wood siding.
The building survived the 1906 earthquake but the cupola on top of the fourth floor was removed soon afterward. Later, it was heavily damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and was fully renovated with partial funding by FEMA in 1994 by EHDD Architecture.
Mills Hall currently houses administrative offices, classrooms and guest rooms for campus visitors. The structure has been designated a national register site, and has also been noted on the City of Oakland Preservation Study List.