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Campus History: Cockefair Hall

Cockefair Hall was UMKC’s first post-war permanent building.
Cockefair Hall was UMKC’s first post-war permanent building.

Cockefair Hall, at the northeast corner at 52nd St. and Rockhill Road, houses the UMKC English, history and philosophy departments.

Cockefair was the first permanent building completed after World War II and began as the law school.

The construction was stalled during the war. The building was completed in 1950.

The law school was the University’s first professional school.

The building is 52 feet wide and 145 feet long. The three story structure cost the University $400,000 to complete.

University of Kansas City President Dr. Charles Decker once said, “The opening of our beautiful new Law Building now gives the University splendid facilities for its present educational program and a great opportunity to move ahead rapidly in its long time dream to build a legal center for this entire metropolitan area.”

In 1950 when the building opened, it boasted a law library with 50,000 volumes and a mock court room where the 464 law school students could learn in an actual courtroom setting.

A sculpture make by a UKC art professer uning clay from where cockefair Hall wsa built.
A sculpture make by a UKC art professer uning clay from where cockefair Hall wsa built.

The building was renamed Cockefair Hall in 1980 after Carolyn Benton Cockefair, an assistant professor in English at the University of Kansas City in the 1940s and 1950s.

Chancellor George A. Russell recommended the building commemorate her contribution “to learning by the creation of a chair in continuing education.”

When the law school moved out in 1982, the building was remodeled and the departments of English, history and philosophy moved in.

According to UMKC archives, the foundation Cockefair was built on was excavated from clay.

The clay was dug out and placed in the open field next to the new hole for the building. The clay sat for two years after the building was complete.

An art professor saw the clay and decided to use it for sculptures.

The professor and a few students he recruited went and dug up some clay and sculpted the pieces.

The sculptures are still on display next to the fire pit at the University Play house on the corner of 51st and Holmes Street, directly south of the Fine Arts building.

Cockefair Hall and the Univeristy Play House have historical ties.
Cockefair Hall and the Univeristy Play House have historical ties.

Cockefair Hall now houses the three departments including faculty and staff offices and a small lecture hall for seating of about 75 people.

nbomgardner@unews.com

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