Built in 1917, the Mill was one of the original five structures built on the current university campus and the only original structure constructed of wood and not rock. From 1920 to 1927 the college catalog described the Mill as containing machinery for the testing of ores. The College of Mines and Metallurgy (now UTEP) solicited mine companies to send material to the Mill to be tested by the students; the only cost to the company was shipping. Testing ore from outside the school provided the students with authentic work experience. In 1927 a new building was constructed adjacent to the Mill and housed badly needed metallurgy laboratories and the metallurgy equipment. The building was officially named Seamon Hall in memory of William H. Seamon, Metallurgy professor from 1919 to 1927. From its beginning, the Science Club held its meetings in Seamon Hall and there organized its bean feeds, a social event to attract new members.
In 1937 the Mill was razed in order the expand Seamon Hall. The addition was completed in 1941 by utilizing funds from the Works Progress Administration. The new extension was three stories high. The top floor contained a lobby, two offices, one classroom, one drawing laboratory, a restroom, and a display room. The second floor housed the fire assaying offices, three store rooms, and a large furnace room. The first floor contained a metallography laboratory, a cyanide plant donated by the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) of Mexico, crushing and mill equipment, and a chemistry laboratory. The Prospector described Seamon Hall during the reopening in April 1941, as a “wonder of science.” In October 1941, Seamon Hall opened a typography laboratory where journalism students learned to set type, arrange layouts, write headlines, and take proofs of work. The introduction of students from Journalism was the beginning of the invasion of Liberal Arts students (referred to as peedoggies) into Engineering students’ (referred as peasants) territory. In 1948, peasant writer, Earl “Spider” Richards, expressed his frustration in The Prospector when he wrote the following: “For several years the classrooms and labs in Seamon Hall have had to absorb the abuse of endless streams of jabbering peedoggies. Everything from jewelry classes to biology classes have attracted the East-siders. It seems that without a certain amount of engineering indoctrination, very few of them would survive the rigors of their strenuous studies.” In 1953, Dr. J. C. Rintelen, Jr. erected a wind tunnel on the south end the Seamon Hall. The tunnel was used to instruct students about mine ventilation.
The peasants attempted to keep a strong presence in Seamon Hall but in 2004 they lost the battle when the building was renovated to house art classes and galleries. The renovation included another expansion and a complete interior overhaul. The outcome resulted in a unique name situation. The original structure, facing main campus, kept the name Seamon Hall but the remainder of the building was renamed The Gerald and Stanlee Rubin Art Center. The current facility is three stories. The first floor is an exhibit preparatory room, the second (ground) floor, contains a hall gallery and a lecture hall, and the third floor is two large galleries. The third floor gallery design kept the exterior of Seamon Hall intact and exposed.
[Sources: The Flowsheet, 1950, 1954, and 1956; Fugate, Francis, Frontier College; Hamilton, Nancy, A Pictorial History of the University of Texas at El Paso; The Prospector, 3/9/1940, 5/18/1940, 5/18/1940, 12/14/1940, 3/15/1941, 4/36/1941, 10/25/1941, 10/9/1943, 4/24/1948, and 2/28/1953; Undergraduate Catalog Archive, http://academics.utep.edu/Default.aspx?PageContentMode=1&tabid=92839.]
Ashley Swarthout was a student in the Masters of Arts in Teaching English program at UTEP. She graduated in May 2013 and is now teaches dual credit at Chapin High School.