Albertson Hall was built in 1928 and is easily recognizable by the observatory on top that houses a large telescope. This building was added to in 1962 and 1978 and underwent a complete renovation in 2000, currently measuring 79,092 gross square feet. Departments presently occupying the building include the departments of Agriculture, Biological Sciences, Communication Sciences and Disorders, and the Dean's office for the College of Health and Life Sciences.
The building is named for Dr. Frederick W. Albertson who worked at the university for 43 years in various capacities and died while still in full-time service to the university. He came to Fort Hays in 1918 to teach agriculture. Under the leadership of university president, Dr. William A. Lewis, a project was started whereby students could work their way through Fort Hays by farming on campus. The college set aside 100 acres bordering Big Creek for the use of students and faculty. Professor E. B. Matthews had earlier developed a method to force vegetable plants so they matured before the hot summer winds came. Matthews averaged $567 per acre for three straight years during his experiment. Students were taught proper gardening techniques by Matthews and others and thus were able to produce good crops. The truck garden crops were sold along the Union Pacific Railroad from Denver to Kansas City. When the city markets did not need the produce, the cooperative dining hall on campus, together with the Domestic Arts Department, canned the surplus, thus lowering food costs for students during the regular school year. The students in the Normal Truckers Association made $2,600 in 1913.
The students drew lots for the parcels of land, and in 1916 there were twenty-one students who drew blanks, meaning that they would not have plots. The gardens were irrigated by the California method of flooding, and the students purchased the water from the school. The crops were marketed through the students' own group, the Truckers Association, and the First National Bank of Hays handled their money. This was seen as important training in community service and leadership, as well as a means to go to college.
Fort Hays students continued the gardening enterprise through World War I. Enrollment declined during the war, but in March, 1918, the college students still had 55 acres of land under cultivation. The small lots were still rented to students who practiced intensive farming. Peas, potatoes, and cabbage were some of the crops raised, and one student made $500 on his acre. Several students even brought milk cows to the campus and sold milk as a means of making money to stay in college. In either instance, what was taught in the classroom was put into practice in the field or at the dairy.
Professor Fred Albertson of the Department of Agriculture expanded the irrigation potential of the gardening project in 1922 when he installed two vertical water pumps. He irrigated thirty acres and soon prepared an additional ten acres. By then, the rent per acre was $15 and the purchase price for water rights was $5. The $20 total also included horses, tools, and one spring plowing. Not as many students were tilling Normal Gardens after the war, but the potential continued and some students made up to $1,000 during the summers.
Professor Fred Albertson became associated with Dr. Elam Bartholomew, pioneer researcher in Mycology, and was convinced to pursue a Ph.D. in Botany under Dr. J. E. Weaver, internationally known plant ecologist at the University of Nebraska. Albertson began his doctoral study just as the drought of the 1930's began on the Great Plains. This natural phenomenon presented Albertson with an opportunity to study Great Plains grasslands under adverse climatic conditions. He and Weaver later published Grasslands of the Great Plains, the classic study of plant ecology and range management. Albertson continued his studies of the short and mixed prairie grasses in western Kansas after he returned to teach in the 1930's. He taught the first course in visual instruction and is known as the "Father of Visual Education" on the Fort Hays campus.