South Hall is the oldest building
on campus, built from 1870 to 1873. The building's base is constructed from granite with nice xenolith inclusions. The top is mainly brick made by the firing of clay harvested from the Bay and the foot of University Avenue.
Designed by David Farquharson, South Hall represents one of the early attempts at earthquake-resistant design in California. Farquharson incorporated a bond-iron framework, well-tied to the foundations, and diagonal bracing to reinforce the building.
South Hall was subjected to its first engineering test during the
1906 San Francisco Earthquake - and survived.
With the magnitude 7.0 1868 earthquake fresh in their minds, the first Regents were extremely concerned about seismic safety and the longevity of buildings on campus, as noted in the Chronicle of the University of California. However, in subsequent years, a stadium was built astride the Hayward Fault and space was allotted for student housing along the fault zone. With advances in knowledge about both earthquakes and engineering in recent decades, there has been renewed interest in protecting the buildings and people on campus from seismic hazard. South Hall, despite its seismically-conscious design, was still considered hazardous by current standards, even if far better than other structures of its time. Its iron skeleton was found to be likely to buckle, and its brickwork and chimneys likely to fall, during strong ground motions. Because of this, South Hall was retrofitted during the 1980s.