Lincoln Hall, PSU’s oldest building, is rich with creativity

Lincoln Hall was built in 1911.

Lincoln Hall may be the oldest building on campus, but inside you’ll find a hive of youthful energy and creativity. Home to the School of Film, the School of Music & Theater and the offices of the College of the Arts, its halls are filled with a sensory and cultural experience for the eyes and ears.

Among the sounds wafting through the air: opera students performing vocal exercises, percussion, jazz and choral musicians rehearsing, theater students practicing their lines and constructing scenery, and film students discussing film theory and collaborating on innovative, cutting-edge projects. 

PSU Library Archives

Lincoln Hall was built in 1911 in grand Beaux Arts style, reportedly on the site of a former cow pasture. Marble architectural features, historic doors and windows, graceful staircases, and classical balustrades greet students, faculty and community members attending the hundreds of classes, performances and recitals that take place in Lincoln Hall each year.  

Lincoln High School was the building’s first occupant. Mel Blanc, the man behind cartoon voices of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, George Jetson and Barney Rubble, went to school here, as did artist Mark Rothko.

In 1949, the high school relocated to its current location on SW 16th Avenue and Salmon Street and the building on the South Park Blocks was purchased by Portland State for $875,000 as part of the Wilhelm-Logan bill, which made the college a permanent institution. The building has had a number of renovations and been called by various names over the years, starting out as the Portland State Extension Center Building (1952-1956), followed by Old Main (1956-1972) and finally Lincoln Hall (1972-present).  

Lincoln Hall was also known as Old Main in its earlier years.

In 2010, PSU launched a major deferred maintenance project to add seismic safety features and other system upgrades. Updates included a modernized orchestra pit, a new black box theater, a complete redesign of the recital hall, restored multistory lightwells that flood the entire building with daylight, and new spaces for the music and film programs.

Lincoln Hall became the first LEED Platinum building on campus, and features numerous sustainability-focused upgrades, which both lightened the structure’s energy usage and opened up new spaces for students to compose and create. 

In 2014, a brand-new glass tower was added, transforming the Broadway side of the building and creating a dramatic, welcoming entrance thanks to a $2.3 million gift from Arlene Schnitzer. The addition of the glass tower included a new gallery space adjacent to the Boiler Room Theater, a green room for the Performance Hall, and a light-filled dance studio rising above to the third floor. 

With all of these impressive features, one element remains a favorite among students and faculty in the know: a series of sky bridges and corridors that connect Lincoln Hall with its neighbors to the south. On a rainy day, students can walk from Fariborz Maseeh Hall all the way to Lincoln Hall without ever getting wet. 

— Karen O’Donnell Stein, Marketing & Communications Manager, College of the Arts


Rediscovering Campus is a weekly series that highlights the stories behind popular spaces at Portland State University, as we gear up for a return to in-person learning.

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