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A good question! But though North Hall was the first UW building constructed, it was only one of the first to be planned. The UW’s first master plan was developed in 1850, and in it, the university was supposed to have four residence halls and a “main edifice,” which is now called Bascom Hall. North and South Halls were the first two residence halls to be built — North on the north side of an imagined avenue down Bascom Hill, and South opposite it. So even before any other building went up, the UW knew that North Hall would be on the north side of its imagined campus. The other two residence halls were to go on the north and south sides of the avenue farther down the hill. But in the 1850s, there was a financial crisis in the country, and then there was the Civil War, and the UW never got around to building the third and fourth dorms. So to answer your question, it appears that North Hall was always called North Hall, named in expectation of what was to come.

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