Kansas State Agricultural College had grown steadily since 1863. By 1871, it was apparent to the Board of Regents that the college was in need of new facilities. At the September 1871 meeting, the committee on building and grounds was instructed to take into consideration the importance of erecting a college barn and laboratory and to bring in plans and estimated cost to the December meeting.
Several factors prevented these facilities from being built. Appropriations to the college at this time were focused primarily on agricultural needs: fencing, improving and stocking the farm. Also, a great deal of controversy was brewing over the scope of the college, including agreement over what subjects should be taught under the Morrill Act or the form that instruction should take. Consequently, funding for a laboratory did not become available until 1876.
Professor William K. Kedzie, the head of the Chemistry Department, took a six-month leave of absence starting on March 1, 1875, for the purpose of studying laboratories in Europe. He visited many prominent laboratories in Great Britain and continental Europe, carefully studying their facilities and layout. He combined and modified many of the features he found there to create designs for the new college laboratory. E.T. Carr, of Leavenworth, modified the designs to create the architectural drawings used in constructing the chemical building.
The Chemical and Horticultural buildings were built at the same time with shared construction funding. E.T. Carr opened the contractor proposals on May 10, 1876. Jacob Winne won the bid for the masonry work for $4,693; Samuel Rains won the bid for the carpentry work for $7,164. The contracts for the major construction were closed by the Board of Regents the following week, with work commencing immediately thereafter. The contract for cutting the caps, sills, and corners was awarded to William Ulrich in June 1876.
"Professor Kedzie's classes began recitations in the new laboratory this week and the apparatus is trotting itself into permanent quarters as rapidly as possible. The Professor is in a high and happy state of delight, only affected by the inevitable confusion of things piled around promiscuously and not yet placed on their future shelves." - from The Industrialist, Sep. 16, 1876
The one-story building was 109x109 feet, with a high tower in the center. From the ground to the tip of the spire, the building stood sixty feet. The entire interior of the building was finished in oiled and varnished pine. Ventilation for the building was accomplished with a system of large moveable skylights in the ceilings of the various laboratories, which were worked by rope and pulley. The skylights were protected from damage by a covering of coarse wire gauze.
"Of the new laboratory building, which has now been occupied by the department since the early part of the present term, it need hardly be said that it has more than realized the expectations which have been entertained for it. The water system proves perfect; the skylight ventilators maintain the air of the working laboratory as fresh as a home parlor. The system of skylights in the large physical laboratory gives not only admirable perpendicular light for the handling of apparatus, but partitioned off by white screens gives an apartment for photographic purposes which can be equaled by few galleries in the State." - from 14th Annual Report, 1876, pg. 31
The lecture room was furnished with one hundred desks in rows, each six inches higher than the one in front of it. Both the qualitative and quantitative laboratories could accommodate forty students, though the latter was reserved for special and advanced students only. The physical laboratory was used by students in both elementary and advanced physics. The kitchen laboratory was under the jurisdiction of the Superintendent of the Woman's Industrial Department, and equipped as a practice room for teaching the principles of scientific cooking. The balance room had massive, cut-stone shelves built into the walls to support the weights and provide a stable surface for accurate measurement. The private laboratory was used for special and private work. The office was reserved as a study and office for the professor in charge.
Unfortunately, as time went by, the skylights proved to be less effective in practice than in theory. In 1885, a new ventilation system was installed, which still provided abundant light and was more manageable. The work on the ventilators was completed by the Mechanical Department of the College. Steam heating was added to the laboratory in 1885 to help stabilize the temperature within the structure.
"The ventilators placed in the roofs of the laboratories are very serviceable. By giving sufficient ingress to the air below, there is no difficulty in keeping the atmosphere of the work-rooms reasonably pure. These ventilators also add much to the appearance of that part of the building. I think the good end served by them should lead to putting ventilators of the same general plan on the other wings." - from 5th Biennial Report, 1886, pg. 38
As is particularly true in the sciences, what was once state-of-the-art soon became antiquated and inadequate. This was the case with the Chemical Laboratory.
"The Chemical Laboratory in summer, viewed from the outside, is one of the most attractive buildings on the grounds. Its low walls are covered to the eaves on nearly all sides with the beautiful Virginia Creeper. Inside, the building shows the marks of age more distinctly than even its robe of ivy might imply. It was built in 1877, at a cost of only $8000, and at that time every dollar was spread over as much ground as possible. The result was very poor construction, and this building is now the poorest one on the campus for its purpose. With cracked walls, a leaky roof, and windows and doors that allow the dust from adjacent fields to blow in freely, the conditions for the performance of the very careful work that chemical analysis requires are very unfavorable." - from The Students' Herald, Apr. 19, 1900, pg. 209
At approximately 9:30 a.m. on May 31, 1900, the Chemical Laboratory caught fire and was destroyed. The fire started in the dark room under the water tank, where a student had been developing photographic negatives. The fire swiftly reached the attic, where it was spotted by student L. V. White, who sounded the alarm.
"Vast volumes of thick, black smoke were pouring through the skylights near the center of the building and soon the bright flames were seen to break through the roof in several places. Some of the students bravely mounted the building with hose lines and made a strong effort to save it, while others, under the direction of President Nichols and Professors Willard and Wieda, saved the records of the department, the chemical library, and part of the mineralogical collections and apparatus. Within a quarter of an hour the fire corps of Manhattan appeared with their three-inch hose line and turned on a ponderous stream; but it was not possible to save the building. The steeple sank back into the burning heap; the roof fell truss by truss and rafter by rafter. An hour later the old building was a pile of smoking embers and calcined walls and the excited students returned to their work in the classrooms." - from The Industrialist, June 5, 1900, pg. 495
In 1899, the legislature, understanding the need for a new chemical laboratory, requested that the College wait two more years, as they felt unable to provide both the University and the College with new laboratories in the same year. Chemistry lectures moved into the Agricultural Hall with laboratory work done in the barn until the new Physical Sciences Building (Denison Hall) was built in 1902. Although initially considered to be a total loss, it was determined that the exterior walls of the laboratory were sound enough to be the basis of another building. The Board of Regents recommeded that it be rebuilt as a gymnasium for girls, and the legislature appropriated $5,000 for the project.
"The maintenance of robust health and a good constitution should be one of the chief aims of every girl. It is impossible to cultivate the body without benefit to the mind; likewise, in order to cultivate the mind properly one should learn to care for the body. With this end in view a gymnasium for women has been provided. It is well equipped with apparatus, shower-baths, lockers, etc., and a well-regulated system of physical training is in successful operation." - from 41st Annual Catalogue, 1904, pg. 86
Professor J. D. Walters drew the plans remodeling the old laboratory into a modern gymnasium. The building contained a large drill hall fifty eight by forty seven feet, and about twenty five feet in height, a large dressing room with lockers for about one hundred fifty students, an apparatus room, a lecture room, two small offices, and a toilet room provided with eight shower baths, two tub baths and four water closets. The winning bid for the work came from F. H. Dale, of Manhattan, at $4,395 for the entire completion of the building, except heating and plumbing. The stone work was subcontracted out to J. Hawn, of Manhattan.
The old laboratory continued to serve as a gymnasium until Nichols Hall was completed in 1911. From 1911 until the completion of the new science building (Willard Hall) in 1939, the building served as a Chemistry Annex. Remodeling the laboratory into a student center was briefly considered in 1939. The proposal received little support.
"A weather-beaten shack appeared mysteriously on the lawn between Kedzie and Anderson halls last Friday morning. Plastered with satiric references to the state attorney-general's ruling against all plans so far presented for a student union building, it announced a committee meeting to consider turning west chemistry annex into a student center. The Kedzie Klarion, typography laboratory sheet, opposed turning 'that dirty, drab, smelly lab into a place for recreation for students.'" - from The Kansas Industrialist, Mar. 15, 1939, pg. 3
Instead, the interior was completely altered to create eight classrooms and eight offices for the use of the Department of Mathematics, providing enough space to accomodate all but four of the 53 classes in that subject. Additional windows were placed in the walls to complement the new floors, partitions, plastering, and slate blackboards which created a serviceable and attractive interior. These alterations to create Mathematics Hall were performed by the Department of Maintenance at an expense of $12,415. The Department of Mathematics moved in and remained there until 1963, when it was again remodeled to house Counseling Services, Minority and Cultural Programs, Program Development, and Research and International Programs.
The building was officially named Holtz Hall on November 16, 1963 in honor of Dr. Adrian Augustus Holtz - affectionalty called "Doc" by all of his friends. Doc Holtz began his 35 years of devoted service in 1919. Although he served the university as a freshman football coach and teacher during his long tenure at Kansas State, he is remembered by hundreds of graduates primarily for his concern for the welfare of students. He was their ever ready counselor eager to offer assistance to help them obtain jobs, loans, or solve personal problems.
Over the years, a variety of student oriented services were housed in Holtz Hall before moving on to other quarters. The last to move on was the Center for Student Development which moved to Holton Hall in 1981. At this time, the Career Planning and Placement Center moved into Holtz Hall. Beginning on November 8, 1982, renovation began on Holtz Hall, with most of the work being completed by March 1, 1983. The renovation was financed with $125,000 in private funds raised through the K-State Foundation.
"The central portion of the building was gutted and several offices and 22 private interview spaces were created. The reception and library areas have been remodeled, and air conditioning for the central part of the building was installed. Interior decoration of the structure conforms to the designs common to the era of the original construction of the building." - from Kansas State Collegian, Nov. 7, 1983
Holtz Hall continues to house the Career Planning and Placement Center in 2001.