On the edge of the western frontier Hattie Cheseldine taught 12 students sewing, dressmaking, millinery and how to dismantle and reassemble the one sewing machine in their classroom.
Their 1873 classroom was the chapel stage in the old Bluemont College building. The young women were part of the new domestic science program at Kansas State Agricultural College, one of the nation's first land-grant institutions, now known as Kansas State University.
Nearly 14 decades later the K-State College of Human Ecology's plans for new classrooms involve comfortable stadium-style seats and technology the first students would have thought possible only in a Jules Verne novel.
The ultramodern classrooms will be part of a new privately financed addition to Justin Hall, home of the college, on the K-State campus. Groundbreaking for the addition took place Friday, Oct. 8, near the southwest corner of Justin.
The addition will cost about $4.4 million, according to Virginia Moxley, dean of the College of Human Ecology, and will be built to LEED -- Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design -- Silver Certification Standards, using sustainable design principles with materials, daylight, energy and water.
K-State's domestic science program -- today called human ecology -- outgrew the stage and several buildings on campus.
Justin Hall was dedicated 50 years ago. The original 100,000-square-foot building carried a $2.12 million price tag. Everything was top of the line: 28 teaching labs, 23 research labs and a lecture hall that seated 229. The building was even air-conditioned.
Kansas State Agricultural College became Kansas State University that year.
The building was named for Margaret M. Justin, who became the nation's youngest dean in 1923 and led the college for 31 years.
"Justin Hall has aged well," Moxley said. "But today our student enrollment has doubled. We teach more students, conduct more research and offer more degree programs than ever. Our mission has grown more complex and more vital.
"To meet these challenges we need more classrooms, more research facilities and more technology," she said.
The 15,000-square-foot addition will house space for student conferences and mentoring, the college's Personal Financial Planning Institute, student collaborative workspace and three classrooms that will accommodate more than 100 students each. The classrooms will be available for students campuswide.
The Justin Hall addition follows the lively K-State tradition, Moxley said.
"We built the first building for human ecology in the world. Kedzie Hall was built in 1898 specifically for the department of household economy and domestic science," she said. “We continue to evolve and grow."
More than 100 years ago the students had to learn to fix sewing machines because many lived far from repair services, and self-sufficiency was both the norm and a necessity.
"Today our students study subjects that weren't even in the 19th century lexicon, subjects such as conflict resolution, gerontology and nutritional epidemiology," Moxley said.
"But our design students still work with sewing machines -- industrials, overlocks and computers -- but no treadles."