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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU's Kent Hall: 90 years from dormitory to University Museum

Date: 5/13/20

Completed in 1930, Kent Hall spent its first few decades as a men's dormitory at the New Mexico College of Agriculture & Mechanic Arts. The 19,000 square-foot facility cost $76,000 to build back then. Located next door to New Mexico State University's newest building Devasthali Hall, Kent Hall went on to house a number of programs and departments over 90 years, such as the speech, ROTC, Physical Science Lab, the Peace Corps and an animal laboratory before becoming home to the University Museum in 1981.
A bird's eye view of the golden dome on the tower of Kent Hall. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Kent hall above after construction in 1930 and below as it looks today. (NMSU Photos)

Harry L. Kent was the 10th president of New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts from 1921-1935. Kent Hall was dedicated in his honor in 1939.

University Museum

University Museum moved into Kent Hall after spending many years in the Seed House, the oldest building on campus dating back to the 19th century. Through its care and maintenance of ethnographic, historic, ancient and contemporary objects, the University Museum preserves an important part of the Southwest and border region's culture and history.

The museum collections are primarily anthropological (archaeological and ethnographic) with secondary collections in history and the natural sciences. Anthropological collections document the cultural diversity of the border in the greater Southwest and northern Mexico.

The preservation and cataloguing of collections promotes research and access to cultural materials. Exhibitions are developed by students and staff as well as brought in from other institutions.

About Harry L. Kent

Harry L. Kent was the 10th president of the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts from 1921-1936. Born in Belleville, Kan, Kent received his bachelor's and master's degrees in science from Kansas State College, and taught there from 1913 to 1919. From there he assumed duties as superintendent of the Fort Hays Experiment Station, and in 1921 he traveled to Las Cruces to become president of New Mexico A&M. Kent was an active Mason and a member of many civic clubs and organizations. He was the first president of the Rotary Club in Las Cruces and was well known for his active work as a Rotarian.

During more than 15 years with Kent at the helm, the college expanded rapidly and its influence in agricultural and ranching activities were felt throughout the state. Kent was a teacher in the New Mexico Wool Growers and New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, as well as in civic clubs. When he left Las Cruces in 1937 because of ill health, Kent considered his time as president of New Mexico A&M his life's work. In 1939, the building was dedicated to honor Kent for his service to the college.

Kent's son George, an alumnus, said he always admired the fact that as president, his father knew every student in the college by name.

Architectural history

El Paso architect Percey McGhee used the project as an opportunity to continue Henry Trost's 1907 plan to create a campus that was architecturally linked through the use of a “Spanish Renaissance” or “Mission Revival” style. The 19,000 square-foot, two-story building consists of three wings and a balcony overlooking a U-shaped patio. The gabled entry facades for the street and patio sides are almost identical.

The patio encloses an arched arcade. One of the building's distinguishing features is a small tower incorporating an octagonal lantern with four openings, capped by a golden Moorish dome.

Renovations over the years

Not surprisingly, Kent Hall has undergone a number of renovations in it's 90-year-history. In 1986, a half a million-dollar renovation modernized the 19,000 square foot facility and added two galleries, offices and classrooms. Although the original Trost-inspired “Mission Revival” architecture remained, additions included wrought iron gates to the arcade for security and transformed the patio into a landscaped plaza to complement the other campus buildings' designs.

NMSU History Archives