Through the ring of poplars that once surrounded the campus stands Ridenbaugh Hall in this image. Though the poplars are long since gone, Ridenbaugh still stands today. Although the building has fostered many uses, presently music rooms and an art gallery, it was originally constructed as a girls’ dormitory. It is the oldest remaining building on the University of Idaho campus, erected in 1902, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Mary Ridenbaugh, then vice president of the Board of Regents for the school, was honored at the building’s dedication, recognizing her commitment to the school and the young women of the University of Idaho.
An appreciation of this addition is evident in the 1903 Gem of the Mountains, the University of Idaho yearbook, where this description of the building appeared:
Just a little further east of the School of Mines is situated the Girls’ Dormitory, known as Ridenbaugh Hall. This too is a three story brick building, and presents a very comfortable appearance in the cosy corner of the campus. The interior is a network of rooms which are artistically arranged to meet the requirements of beauty, comfort, and economy. It is capable of accomodating 75 ladies. The want of proper care for the young ladies from surrounding cities and towns has long been a hinderance to the development of the institution, but this want has been obviated, for with this elegant building in the hands of such competent women as Mrs. Young, Preceptress, and Mrs. Henderson as Matron, the young ladies of our state have at their disposal an ideal home.
An amazing woman in her own right, Mrs. William H. Ridenbaugh was active in politics, education, and social circles. She served on the Board of Regents at the University of Idaho for three terms. One of the most prominent women of her day, Mary Ridenbaugh was well read and well traveled, viewed as a gracious and entertaining hostess. With her grace and persistence, she played an integral part in the formation of Idaho’s dormitory and Domestic Science program, two significant steps for the education of women at the University of Idaho.
Idaho’s Department of Domestic Science was established the same year Ridenbaugh Hall was completed. The University of Idaho was the first institution in the Pacific Northwest to adopt such a program. In the 12’x12’ kitchen at Ridenbaugh Hall, the first domestic science cooking classes began, and they remained there until a wing of the new Administration Building was designated for their use.
Photograph selected, and text written, by University of Idaho student, Kerry Brent.
Written in 1999 for the UI Library’s Digital Memories website.