UF Named Facilities
John R. Benton Hall
John R. Benton was a leader in the engineering field in the United States and the first Dean of the College of Engineering. Born in Concord, NH, his education was received at Trinity College and the University of Chicago, and he received his Ph.D. at the University of Gottingen. During his time at the University of Florida, Benton supervised a faculty of five that taught a curriculum of civil, mechanical and electrical engineering to 48 students. Benton was instrumental in establishing the University of Florida Chapter of Theta Chi fraternity, as well as contributing towards the purchase of the organization's first house.
Benton Hall stood on the University of Florida campus from 1911 to 1966 and was home to UF's first planetarium, constructed in 1951 by Dr. Alex G. Smith, professor of astronomy. The planetarium was housed here until 1966, when Benton Hall was demolished to make way for Grinter Hall. Only the Spitz-A Projector remains from the original planetarium, which today is housed in the Department of Astronomy.
Benton Hall was the first engineering building on campus, but chemical engineering was not yet an independent curriculum and was not housed there for years. Originally part of chemistry, chemical engineering was housed in Leigh Hall until 1939. Only when chemical engineering became a full-fledged department in the Engineering College did it move to Benton Hall and Benton Annex, a temporary building directly behind Benton Hall.
The space arrangement in Benton Hall was not suitable for chemical engineering equipment, as the location of the building (now the site of Grinter Hall) put it right in the center of the campus. When chemical engineering moved to the Hangar Building (now the site of the O'Connell Center) in 1950, however, it was in the wilderness--at that time the only thing west of the old gym was the football field. During World War II, the ROTC had put up an airplane hangar that was used for training activities during the war, but when a new military building was erected, Dean Weil obtained the old hangar for the enlarged engineering operations.