Time and Change: Orton Hall, The Study Spot of Prehistoric Past and Present

By Avery DePaola on November 16, 2019 at 8:30 am
Orton Hall on the Oval.

Time and Change is a weekly series highlighting the history of some of Ohio State's storied traditions.


Orton Hall was built in 1893 and named after Edward J. Orton, a geologist and Ohio State’s first president. The building is located on the Oval and houses a library, classrooms and a geology museum that is free to the public.

Orton Hall in 1895.
Orton Hall, 1895

The unusual architecture of the building is full of details. The stones used to build Orton Hall are organized from oldest to newest from the ground up. 24 gargoyles encompass the top the bell tower and each one is an extinct prehistoric creature.

Exterior of Orton Hall
Exterior of Orton Hall

The classes of 1906-1911, 1913 and 1914 gifted 12 bells to be installed in Orton Hall in 1915. Members of the Chimes Club were responsible for sounding the bells at 11:50 a.m. and 4:50 p.m. In 1949, the bells were fully automated to ring on the quarter hour and play Westminster Quarters, which is also the recognizable melody that starts Carmen Ohio.

In the 1960’s, a student group known as “Chimes Masters” would play contemporary songs and melodies depending on the weather and time of year. Various tunings of the bells allowed for a wide variety of songs to be played.

The chimes coming from Orton Hall are known to signal the start of the “long walk” which is another, more romantic tradition at Ohio State. Legend has it, that if you are able to walk with your loved one across the long stretch of the Oval, while the bells in Orton are chiming, your love will last forever.

As someone who makes the walk across the Oval very often, I deem this nearly impossible without outside assistance.

Orton Hall also contains a rolltop desk that is a hidden gem of Ohio State lore. Letters and notes fill the inside of the desk located in the library. Some letters are very deep and personal while others are more lighthearted. As creepy as this sounds, many believe that you’re drawn to the desk and to the letter that you need to read. 

The "secret desk"
The desk containing letters in Orton

In 2018, Orton Hall received a fossil cast of a cryolophosaurus which was discovered by Dr. David Elliot, an Ohio State professor, in Antarctica in 1991. This finding is regarded as one of the most complete fossils to date.

The dinosaur in the lobby of Orton
The fossil cast that stands in the lobby of Orton.

This is just one of the many prehistoric artifacts housed in the building, making it an interesting study spot for Ohio State students. Although often overlooked, Orton Hall is brimming with history; both through physical prehistoric artifacts and rich Ohio State tradition.

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