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Waller Hall, known originally as University Hall and referred to in the early twentieth century as the Willamette University's "old historic temple," is the oldest surviving building on campus (earlier wood frame structures were demolished long ago) and one of the oldest surviving institutional structures in Oregon. It was built under the supervision of the Reverend Alvan Waller, a Methodist missionary who helped establish Willamette University and who raised funds to build this structure. Waller, for whom the building was named in 1912, was a leading figure in Methodism and in education in Oregon. The structure was the institution's first to be built of brick made from clay on site, and it initially housed virtually all aspects of the university: chapel, library, laboratory, classrooms, and, in the attic, makeshift housing for male students. It is significant because it is the first durable and monumnetal builindg devoted to higher education in the Far West. It is also significant as a late example of Federal design and probably the first major example of that design in the region.
Waller Hall had been extensively damaged by fires in 1891 and 1919. In the period between the fires, a mansard top floor had been added that departed from the building's original Greek revival treatment. By the 1980s, Waller Hall was in run-down condition, and there was some thought of razing it and replacing it with a modern replica. Instead renovations took place first in 1987-1988, which included stabilizing the building structurally, renovating the historic university chapel on the second level, and remodeling the attic as the university president's office suite. A second renovation in 2005 involved replacing windows with milled duplicates of the originals and re-tucking the brickwork. The building is now in excellent condition.