History of Walker Hall

The Building

Walker Hall is a historic academic and administrative building in the heart of the UC Davis campus adjacent to Shields Library. Originally known as the Agricultural Engineering building, Walker Hall was first dedicated on November 12, 1928 along with the Animal Science Building (renamed Hart Hall in 1963). The building housed agricultural classrooms and shops and was used for both research and instruction.

Walker Hall stands on the western end of Peter J. Shields Avenue, occupying almost an entire block with its 44,415 square feet. The building boasts a two-story Spanish mission-style edifice, stucco walls, and a terra-cotta roof. 

The building was decommissioned in late 2011 and the renovation project will complete seismic, accessibility, and other life safety and building mechanical improvements to renovate Walker Hall.

The Architect 

William Hays (1873-1963) was born in Philadelphia to parents Charles Henry and Helen Reeder Hays. He received his bachelor's degree in architecture in 1893 from the University of Pennsylvania. Upon graduation, Hays won a traveling fellowship that allowed him to complete his studies at the American Academy in Rome and in Paris. 

Hays' professional career started in Philadelphia, where he began practice in 1894. He moved to San Francisco in 1904, and was a member of the firm Howard & Galloway from 1906 to 1908. He began his own practice in 1908. In addition to his design work, Hays had a distinguished career as a professor of architecture at UC Berkeley. He taught from 1906 to 1943, and was the acting director of the school from 1917 to 1919.

Among his many roles in the development of the UC campuses, Hays was the supervising architect for the UC Davis campus from 1918 to 1944, and chairman of Building Location and Campus Development for the UC Berkeley campus in the 1940s. He designed buildings for UC San Francisco, UC Davis, and UC Berkeley, including Giannini Hall and fraternity houses. Hays was a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and a charter member of the Beaux Arts Institute

The Department Chairs

Roy Bainer (1902 - 1990) followed Harry B. Walker (1884-1957) as chairman of the Department of Agricultural Engineering for fourteen years. UC Davis was considered to be on the cutting edge of agricultural mechanization thanks to the research headed by Walker and Bainer and conducted by students in the program.

Among the projects that Walker worked on and supervised were research and development of farm structures including barns for milk cows, beef, swine, poultry, milking parlors, prune drying, sulfuring fruit, and farm laborer housing. He also oversaw early work in agricultural machinery, including bean cleaners and sugar beet harvesters, as well as surveying and irrigation research.

Bainer worked on many inventions, including machines to harvest sugar beets, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and fruits and nuts. He developed or improved hay bale loaders and tree shakers, and helped perfect mechanized cotton pickers, equipment to pick and shuck corn, as well as a variety of other agricultural machines.

Walker Hall was dedicated in 1959 for H.B. Walker, the 20-year chairman of the department. Bainer Hall was named for Roy Bainer, who was founding dean of the College of Engineering.

Home to Many Programs and Departments

In addition to serving as the home of the Agricultural Engineering department, Walker Hall once housed Civil Engineering, Applied Science, DesignLandscape DesignEnvironmental DesignLandscape Architecture and the Design Museum. Over time, Walker Hall has been known by many nicknames, including the Design Building, the Walker Engineering Building and the Engineering Building. On the lintel above the main entrance to the building, the original writing proclaiming it the "Engineering Building" can still be seen.

The programs and departments that occupied Walker Hall have all since moved into different locations across the Davis campus. The Design Department moved to Cruess Hall, and the Landscape Architecture department moved from the second floor of Walker Hall to their own wing of Hunt Hall in 2009.

Walker Hall Renovation

According to the 2012 proposal for UC Davis’ now-approved Graduate and Professional Student Center presented to then-Chancellor Linda Katehi, a push for such a center began in 2003. However, Carlos Ruvalcaba, the chair of the Graduate Student Association (GSA) and a fourth-year in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Ph.D. program said support for such a center stems from as early back as 1992. Thanks to Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, Soltek Pacific Construction, and Design and Construction Management, Walker Hall was successfully renovated from the design phase in 2015 to building completion in 2021.