History of the Campus and Master Planning
The Campus of the Bloomsburg State Normal School in 1869. Institute Hall (now Carver Hall) is on the left and the original dormitory on the right.
Bloomsburg University Archivist
In 1868 it was suggested that the Institute become a state normal school
for teacher training, and in order to do this more land and a dormitory were
needed. And so by April of that
year seven more acres behind the existing three were purchased, and Henry Carver
presented plans for a dormitory that would include rooms for a model school for
teacher training. The cornerstone
was laid on June 25 and by February of 1869 the building had been completed and
Bloomsburg officially became the State Normal School of the 6th District.
An unplanned construction opportunity occurred on
September 4, 1875 when the dormitory caught fire and burned down in two hours.
There was no loss of life, but student possessions were lost and rooms
for them had to be provided in the town. It
was decided to rebuild on the same site, and on October 30, 1875 the cornerstone
was laid for a four-story building. At
the same time, since the rooms used for the model school had been in the old
building, a one-story frame structure called Hemlock Hall was erected along Penn
Street north of Institute Hall to serve as the new model school.
Work on the dormitory went quickly, and it was dedicated on April 26,
1876. In 1927 the dormitory was
named Waller Hall in honor of two-term principal David J. Waller.
During the 1800s there does not seem to have been a formal planning
process in determining the future physical layout of Bloomsburg's campus.
Land was purchased as lots became available in order to insure expansion
room, although there was no plan drawn up to show what facilities would be
placed on that land. Buildings were
built primarily because of the pressures of increased current enrollment and not
due to future projections of growth. This
was the case in 1885 when more classroom space was needed, and so a new building
for the model school was planned that would be two stories in height and lie
just to the east of Institute Hall. The
model school was named Noetling Hall in 1927 after longtime faculty member
In 1888 and 1889 two more sections of land were purchased when 3 and 1/4
acres lying to the north of the existing campus along Lightstreet Road holding a
large grove of trees were bought for $3500, and eight lots on the south side of
Second Street opposite the campus were acquired for $4500.
It was recognized that the school would need this land for its future
A great deal of construction went on between 1890 and 1895 as enrollment
grew and the trustees reacted accordingly.
Loans had to be taken out, which were backed up by the personal wealth of
the board, whose members included influential individuals from the Town of
Bloomsburg. More dormitory space
was required, so a wing was added to the dormitory in 1890 which included a
porch along Second Street, and an annex was completed between the main part of
the building and the model school in 1894.
These additions included both dorm rooms and an enlarged dining room and
A small gymnasium had been set up in a room in Institute Hall, but this
was replaced by a modern facility attached to the back of the annex.
Employees had lived in the main dormitory building and then Hemlock Hall
after 1886, but the latter was torn down when a new employee building was
completed in 1895. In 1898 the
additional buildings finally demanded the construction of a boiler house along
Penn Street to provide heat for the campus.
Space for outdoor recreational activity was not ignored, and in 1890
tennis courts were built just to the east of the dormitory along Second Street.
By 1895 an athletic field running north of Institute Hall and utilizing
part of the land near the Grove was graded and used by the football team.
It was enclosed by a high-board fence on the north end, and also included
a baseball diamond with a grandstand.
Even after these improvements the Board of Trustees was still planning to
further expand the campus. These
plans would include a home for the principal, a science building, and a new
athletic field. One possible
location for the principal's home was on the site of the tennis courts, but when
the house formerly owned by Charles R. Buckalew became available in 1903 it was
purchased and renovated the following year.
Principal Judson Welsh and his family moved into the home in 1904, and
after a period of time when it was rented out it has been the official residence
of the head of this institution since 1922.
On February 4, 1904 the two upper floors of the employee dormitory were destroyed by fire. It was soon rebuilt, and in 1908 was remodeled as a student dormitory and renamed North Hall. By 1925 it had become the men's dormitory and would continue to be used for this purpose until the completion of new North Hall, now Northumberland Hall, in 1960.
More land was needed for the expansion plans of the normal school, and in May of 1904 5 and 1/2 additional acres were purchased along Lightstreet Road and the west side of Spruce Street. This gave Bloomsburg the space needed for its next two projects, a science building and new athletic field. It was decided in 1905 to place a $75,000 science building in closer proximity to the rest of campus by using the north end of the current athletic field, just to the west of the grove. The new field then went on part of the recent land purchase to the east of the grove.
Map of the normal school campus in 1913. With the exception of Buckalew Place the entire campus was in a compact area that included the buildings, athletic fields and tennis courts, grove, and plenty of open space with wide, terraced lawns.
Although not formally planned, beautification
projects during the early part of the 1900s made the normal school campus a more
pleasant and attractive place. Many
of them were memorial gifts of various classes.
These included a bronze fountain installed in the street in front of
Institute Hall by the class of 1904 and a lagoon placed in the Grove by the
Class of 1908. Both of these had
disappeared from the campus by 1963.
Two memorials that still exist are the Pergola located north of Science
Hall which was a gift of the class of 1916, and the World War I Memorial Pinery
that was placed in the lawn between Institute and Science Halls by the Class of
1919. The pinery consisted of sixteen pine trees planted in the
shape of a six-pointed star. It was dedicated on Memorial Day of 1919 to
remember the lives of sixteen Bloomsburg State Normal School students who died
in the First World War.
The final but perhaps most memorable additions of this type to the campus
during the first two decades of the twentieth century were the seven stained
glass windows purchased through the efforts of Prof. Oscar Bakeless.
Four rectangular windows were acquired from the Spence Company of Boston
in 1918 and 1919 and placed in the model school.
Three Tiffany windows were installed in the entrance to the dormitory
annex in 1920 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first class of teachers
from the Normal School, and to honor Dr. David Waller's retirement after many
years of service.
During most of the 1920s a great deal of the campus planning involved remodeling and updating existing facilities to make them more useful and attractive. Three areas that benefited from this were the library, which became a place for research instead of a study hall; the dining room which was painted and had the windows replaced to give it a more modern and brighter look; and the lobby of the dormitory which became a gathering place for students with couches and tapestries on the walls.
The recently refurbished dining room in Waller Hall, 1929.
When the Bloomsburg State Normal School was officially purchased by the
state in 1916 it now meant that state appropriations, rather than the credit of
the Trustees, could be used for new land acquisitions, construction, and
remodeling. This enabled the school in 1928 to plan its first new
buildings in over 20 years. These
included a training school, laundry building, and an addition to the power plant
to handle the needs of these and future buildings.
The training school had been a priority since Dr. Francis B. Haas became
head of Bloomsburg in 1927, and would enable Noetling Hall to be used solely for
college instruction. Construction
began on the training school building in 1929 and it was ready for use in the
fall of 1930, as was the laundry, which was built on the east edge of the grove
and would eventually be named Simon Hall in 1983.
Equally important was the acquisition of yet more land that was needed
for the college to expand. In 1928
an agreement was reached to buy 18 1/2 acres of land between Spruce, Lightstreet,
Chestnut, and Second streets from the Dillon estate.
The following year the state provided $75,000 to finalize the purchase.
This meant that the college owned the entire area between these streets
except for the Dillon House and six lots sold earlier for housing.
These would not be purchased until the 1960s.
Once the land had been acquired it was decided to use part of it for new
athletic fields. By the middle of
the 1930s the Great Depression had caused the federal government to become the
primary source of building funds for the school.
The first evidence of this was in 1934 when the Public Works
Administration provided money to grade the new field, which was located on the
east side of Spruce Street and ready for use in 1935.
By 1937 tennis courts were completed to the south of the athletic field
and the entire complex was named Mt. Olympus.
The recognition that more buildings were needed came after the initial
construction phase was completed in 1930. It
had become apparent that the old gymnasium was inadequate for a modern college,
and a new gymnasium was required, as well as a junior high school, storage
building, men's dormitory, and yet another addition to the heating plant.
Once again the federal government came to the rescue with $578,000 being
approved in 1937 to fund the largest single building program in school history
up until that time.
When the bids were opened in January of 1938 however they were $40,000 over budget, with no more money available. It was decided to go ahead with all of the projects except for the men's dormitory and hope that additional funding could be found in the future. Ground was broken in January of 1938, and the three new buildings were essentially complete by May of 1939, just in time for the school's Centennial celebration.
Even though the new gymnasium, junior high school, and shop were almost
complete in 1939 they were not accepted by the Department of Public Instruction
and could not be dedicated. Even
two years later in 1941 only the shop building was in use.
The problem with the gym was that it needed electrical power and the
wiring had not been finished. It
was finally completed early in 1942 and the first basketball game was played on
the new court on February 27th. Centennial
Gymnasium, complete with a swimming pool, cost $300,000 and was dedicated on May
Once these buildings were completed it would be over fifteen years before more new construction went up on the Bloomsburg campus. Low enrollments during World War II played a part in delaying any further expansion, but also the need was felt to once again go through a period of remodeling and modernizing. The first major project was the old gym. Once Centennial was finished it was decided to turn the former facility into a student recreation area that would be a center for campus social activities. The work went on until 1955 when the updating of the former gym was completed with the addition of the student bookstore and a snack bar. When it was finished the student recreation center was christened the Husky Lounge, and it remained the center of campus activity until 1970.
The remodeled and improved Husky Lounge in 1964. It was the place for students to get together and relax.
Carver Hall also underwent major changes during the 1950s.
In 1953 Carver was selected to be the primary administrative center on
campus, and offices for the President and other officials would be there instead
of Waller Hall. Since its
construction in 1867 the first floor of Carver had only been used as classroom
space. These were removed, and by
February of 1954 Carver Hall boasted a new lobby, conference rooms, and the
college's major administrative offices. For
the first time they were located at the front of the campus.
Although the modernization work went on, it was realized by 1952 that as
the size of the student body increased the need grew for a larger physical
campus. In April of that year money
was made available for one construction project, and it was decided to use it to
build a dining facility, with additional funds used to convert the former dining
room in Waller into the new library. The
site chosen for the dining hall was the old set of tennis courts between Waller
and Ben Franklin that had been in place since 1890.
The building served its first meals in April of 1957, while the
remodeling for the library was completed in early 1958.
The Commons was the first new building on campus in nearly twenty years,
and was the beginning of an advanced building program that would last for twenty
more years and completely reshape the Bloomsburg State Teachers College.
In late 1956 the college had two established programs for its physical plant, one that dealt with the modernization of existing buildings and the other with the construction of new buildings. The latter took precedence, because even before the College Commons was complete state funds were provided for two more projects. These were for a men's dormitory 25 years after the need for one had first been established, and a classroom building that would be the first classroom space built specifically for college use since Science Hall 50 years before.
The immediate goal of the construction was to create accommodations for more students, so that the college that had 1079 undergraduates in 1956 could handle 1200 in 1957 and 1400 by 1958. In order to accomplish this in an organized and logical manner a comprehensive campus plan was drawn up by John Schell in 1957. It was the first plan of its kind developed for any of the Pennsylvania state teachers colleges. The plan was intended for a college of 2000 students, which enrollment projections said Bloomsburg would reach by 1965. It divided the campus from west to east into three areas of living, learning, and recreation. Anything built in those areas would have the appropriate function. All of the pre-1930 buildings would be torn down with the exception of Carver Hall and replaced with dormitories or open space.
A 1958 presentation of the master plan for the Bloomsburg State Teachers college campus. The plan was followed with minor alterations, with the exception that the athletic facilities were moved to the upper campus after the land there was purchased.
Most of the construction work over the next decade followed this general
plan. Ground was broken for the men's dormitory in July of 1958, and in August
the new classroom building was started just to the west of Centennial Gymnasium
in the learning area. The new North
Hall dormitory and Sutliff Hall were both completed by 1960.
This was occurring at a time when the state of Pennsylvania had a 10-year
plan to spend $122 million on construction projects across the state system to
improve and expand facilities. Bloomsburg
was due to receive $8 million of this money, which would go towards three
classroom buildings, six dormitories, an auditorium, field house, and
As the initial building phase was being completed it
became necessary to drastically adjust the college's enrollment projections and
the campus plan as well. Projections
that originally showed 2000 students by 1970 were far too conservative.
A 1961 campus plan was based on enrollments of 4800 by 1970, and a third
plan by Price and Dickey finished in 1967 anticipated 6000 by 1975.
This rapid growth called for both a large and sustained building program,
as well as the acquisition of more land. In
1957 the state authorized the purchase of land that comprised the former country
club, as well as properties on both sides of Buckalew Place, although these
transactions were not finalized until 1963.
Seventeen buildings would be completed on the Bloomsburg campus between
1964 and 1976. These included six
dormitories, two classroom buildings, two athletic facilities, two buildings for
administrative use, the auditorium, library, commons, student union, and the
parking garage. This mammoth
construction project completely changed the face of the campus. Lost during this time were old North Hall, Noetling Hall, and
bit-by-bit Waller Hall. The sites
for the buildings followed the basic outline of first the 1957 plan and later
the 1967 campus plan.
The one major change apparent in the 1967 plan over
the former plan was the location of the athletic fields, which were originally
to be at the east end of campus. This
change was due in no small part to the acquisition of land on the hill north of
the existing campus that formerly held the country club.
When its purchase was first planned the land was to have been used as a
second campus organized for a junior college of freshmen and sophomores.
But by early 1966 it was decided that it would not be wise to separate
Buildings Constructed on the
College campus, 1964-1976
State College campus, 1964-1976
Center for the Arts
Center for the Humanities
A larger student center was also very necessary, and after the Scranton
Commons opened in the spring of 1970 the former commons was renovated to become
a temporary student union. The new
student center was built just to the north of Waller Hall, and had all of the
services of the previous center in addition to game rooms, an infirmary, and
information center. The Kehr Union was dedicated in May of 1973, even though it
was not fully operational until October. After
the Union opened the former Commons was again renovated, this time into the
permanent home of the bookstore.
The campus plans addressed not only classroom and
dormitory space, but also more mundane but important facilities such as a
parking garage to replace several student lots lost to construction.
In 1969 five houses south of Carver Hall were purchased and torn down so
that construction could begin on a tri-level parking garage.
A lot owned by the Bloomsburg Hospital was also rented in an attempt to
ease the parking shortage.
Work on the new upper campus also progressed, and by the spring of 1974 baseball was once more played on campus, and in September Redman Stadium was dedicated. This all but ended an almost twenty year period of continuous growth at Bloomsburg. In January of 1975 venerable Waller Hall was demolished just short of a century after it had replaced the first dormitory, and construction began on Lycoming Hall which was dedicated in October 1976. Pleas were made to the state for funds for a human services classroom building and a badly needed addition to the library, which had outgrown its space after only eight years, but no further money would be forthcoming for new construction for quite some time.
During the 1980s other smaller projects were
completed, including in 1985 the installation of a pedestrian footbridge across
Lightstreet Road. This was
important to insure the safety of students getting from the student parking lot
to campus. The need for this had
been suggested and advocated for twenty years until it became reality.
But the two largest projects during this decade were the long-delayed
classroom building and additional student housing.
In 1982 after years of waiting plans were approved for a human services
center. In the fall of 1984 it was dedicated and named for
Bloomsburg's former president James McCormick.
And as early as 1981 the trustees had wanted to construct dormitories on
the upper campus. This did not
happen until early 1988 when construction began on a $6 million project to build
six townhouses. The Montgomery
Place Apartments were completed and dedicated in October of 1989.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s another period of
change began, but this differed from previous ones as to how it was funded.
Before the Bloomsburg State Normal School was purchased by the state of
Pennsylvania in 1916, money for construction and land purchases was raised by
the trustees through loans or their own personal credit.
From 1916 until the 1980s funds were provided primarily by the state,
with the exception of the Depression years when it was the federal government.
But over the last fifteen years development funds, student fees, and
government bonds have accounted for most of the funding to fuel the continued
physical growth of Bloomsburg University.
The first major project to be completed was in 1990
with the total interior renovation of Old Science Hall.
It took a year and half at a cost of $3.3 million to upgrade the eighty
year old building. In 1992 the renovation and expansion of the Scranton Commons
created atriums that would accommodate nearly 200 more students, but the largest
project was the expansion of the Kehr Union to include a ballroom for 600
people. The Union was rededicated
in 1993, as was a newly renovated Carver Auditorium. In February 1995 a $5.6 million, 56,000 square foot student
recreation center was opened and ready for use. The vast majority of work done during these years was needed
to relieve overcrowded conditions and improve student service facilities.
But the greatest need, and the priority project for
the campus since the mid-1980s was a new library building.
The old building had been inadequate since the early 1970s, and finally
in 1988 the state legislature approved funding.
But it was not until 1995 when the University had raised millions of
dollars in private money in support of the library that the state money was made
available, and in the summer of 1996 construction began.
The library opened at the end of May 1998 and was dedicated the following
Over the last several years work has continued to improve our physical campus, from redoing the steam tunnels to renovating the University bookstore and Scranton Commons. Centennial Gym is being greatly expanded into a modern classroom building and the old library turned into a student services center. More apartments are being built on the upper campus and in 2000 the first campus master plan since the mid-1960s was completed. This plan stresses maximum efficiency to increase the amount of green space on campus and fully utilize existing areas for new classrooms, student housing, and parking. Over its long history Bloomsburg University has had an admirable record of growth and expansion, becoming one of the best educational institutions of its size in the northeastern United States. And this has been done in no small part due to the efforts of the individuals who planned our growth from one small building into a modern campus.
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