Francis H. Snow, one of the first three professors at the university, held the natural history chair and founded KU’s botanical collection, which was housed in old and new Snow halls. Ronald L. McGregor, herbarium director 1954-88, oversaw a huge expansion in specimens, and to accommodate it the collection was moved to this 9,000-square-foot redbrick building in the West District, designed by George Beal, in 1966. The research laboratory and herbarium are affiliated with the Natural History Museum & Biodiversity Institute.
The building is named for Joseph Sterling Bridwell (1885-1966), oil operator and cattle breeder from Wichita Falls, Texas, who funded KU research into developing better strains of grasses and legumes for cattle. In 1985, the Bridwell Foundation endowed the construction of the east wing laboratory, designed by Kenneth O. van Achen. The herbarium was named in McGregor’s honor after his retirement. Bridwell also houses research space, a library, a slide collection, and more than 350,000 pressed specimens.