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Rankin Hall at the University of Montana.

Before the University of Montana went tobacco-free in 2011, some students took to the steps of Rankin Hall to enjoy a cigarette before slipping into classes like logic and philosophy.

The cigarettes are a thing of the past, but the building holds its own in stature and reputation.

According to the Environmental Studies Program, which now lays claim to the building, the hall has held many roles over the years. It served as the university library from 1908 to 1923 and the Law School until 1961.

The psychology program would occupy the structure until 1983. That year, it was renamed Jeannette Rankin Hall, reflecting the legacy of the former UM grad who holds the distinction of being the first woman elected to Congress.

Like Rankin, the building’s reputation has endured. It was erected in 1908, making it one of the oldest standing structures on campus. Main Hall was established in 1898 and the math building dates to 1903.

Rankin Hall’s comfort may reflect its age, and the accommodations within the structure are sparse. Radiators pump out excessive heat in the winter, and in the summer the rooms can be just as hot.

But the university wouldn’t be the same without Rankin Hall. The building represents the only example of neo-classical architecture on campus. It’s stature on the Oval – itself established in 1896 – is prominent, giving the university a classical feel when the day calls for a stroll across campus, minus the cigarette.

Get to Missoula’s Iconic Rankin Hall on Route 1, 8, 12. Visit mountainline.com for route maps and schedules #missoulamoves

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Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at martin.kidston@missoulian.com.

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