Building History for All Time

John Herrick’s research filled five volumes that detailed the history of every building on the Ohio State campus dating as far back as 1873.

John Herrick

As John Herrick created his archive of the university’s 1,500 buildings, he discovered a log cabin once stood along the 16th fairway of Ohio State’s Scarlet golf course. He also discovered the Old South Dorm along Neil Avenue had no bathing facilities, requiring residents to go to the nearby North Dorm once a week.

John Herrick became known as Ohio State’s unofficial historian of campus physical facilities. During his 60-year relationship with Ohio State, he wore many hats. He was a student, an administrator, and a professor, yet his favorite role may have been charting and preserving the university’s history—one building at a time. 

Herrick’s love for all things Buckeye began in 1925 when he began his lifelong relationship with Ohio State. He earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1928, a master’s degree in 1936, and a doctoral degree in 1944. In 1947, he joined the faculty as an associate professor and, from 1956 to 1967, directed the Office of Campus Planning and Space, then a new department established by former Ohio State President Novice Fawcett. He returned to teaching as a professor of educational policy and leadership before officially retiring in 1972 after guiding the university through major physical growth with the addition of 76 major buildings. 

Yet, the passion Herrick felt for Ohio State never wavered. In fact, for the next 18 years, he volunteered his time, efforts, and expenses—as many as 6,000 hours of work and 19,000 miles of driving—to record detailed information on all of the university’s 1,500 buildings. He located and archived more than 300 historical maps, reviewed minutes from past Board of Trustees meetings, studied old telephone directories and photographs, and gathered accounts of what he called “old-timer memories and diaries.” 

Herrick’s research filled five volumes that detailed the history of every building on campus dating as far back as 1873. He presented the first set of books to the Ohio State Board of Trustees in 1980. The John H. Herrick Archives, combined with the Photography Archive established by university architect Joseph N. Bradford after he retired in 1933, offer a set of records that could rival those of any university in the world. He also wrote histories of the Oval and Mirror Lake Hollow, each compiled from 13 years of notes he accumulated. 

Together, Herrick and his wife, Mabel—who passed away in 1990 and 1991, respectively—chose to create a legacy that benefits future generations at Ohio State. With a charitable bequest, they established the John and Mabel Herrick Fund for use at the discretion of the dean of the College of Education and Human Ecology. The Herricks created their fund to help attract and retain quality faculty and staff for the college. 

Over the past decade, the College of Education and Human Ecology has targeted these resources for use in myriad ways that carry out the couple’s vision. New faculty arrive nearly every year to teach the more than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students in the six academic units within the college. Their giving supports an area of the university John Herrick knew so well, as a student, alumnus, faculty member, and archivist.

The Neil Legacy Society
The Ohio State University
1480 West Lane Avenue
Columbus, OH 43221