Picken Hall is historically significant to Fort Hays State University as the first structure constructed in 1904 on the present-day campus. Originally known as Academic Hall and later the Administration Building, the building site chosen for construction was a flat area bordered on the south by Big Creek and on the north by the railroad. Subsequent wing additions to Picken Hall were completed in 1908. When originally constructed, Picken Hall served primarily as a classroom building. This use of the facility continued into the 1980's until new campus buildings reduced the need for classroom space in Picken Hall. An elevator tower was added in 1998, making the building fully accessible. A $4.5M renovation of the 40,218 gross square foot building was completed in the summer of 2010. The building houses the departments of Admissions, Financial Assistance, Registrar, Academic Advising & Career Exploration, Kelly Center, Graduate School and Student Fiscal Services, providing a "one-stop shopping" facility for both current and potential students.
The building honors the memory of William S. Picken who was named to be the principal of the western branch of the Kansas State Normal School at Hays City when the school was founded in 1902. His hard work and dedication began to shape the school into a liberal arts school. When the athletic program was in its infancy, Principal Picken functioned as trainer and first aid attendant for the football team. He believed that physical training and athletics were a part of the total academic program, a philosophy that continues to apply today.