Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Farewell Barnes Hall

by Bryan Whitledge

President Charles Anspach and Mrs. C.C. Barnes, 1952
Barnes Hall started life as the addition to the dormitory wing of the student union building, known then as Keeler Union (today, Central students, staff, and faculty call this building Powers Hall). The initial dormitory wing - a men-only dormitory - had beds for 90 students when it opened in 1939. But male students at Central weren’t accustomed to living on campus, so many of the beds stayed empty that first year. After the US entered World War II, a US Navy V-12 training school was established at CMU and the Keeler dorms became home to 125 cadets. After the War ended, the student population at Central started to boom. In 1949, the Keeler dorms housed 180 students – double the original 90 beds! There was definitely a need for more beds for students.

Central constructed an addition to the Keeler dorms in 1951 and on October 25, 1952, this new structure - one that could accommodate an additional 144 students - was officially dedicated Charles C. Barnes Hall (pictured above). The building was named in honor of the long-serving faculty member, registrar, and the Central’s first Dean of Men. With three beds to a room, the old Keeler dorms and Barnes Hall had room for 266 men. But the post-WWII student boom meant that beds were filling up faster than Central could build them - Robinson, Larzelere, Calkins, and Robinson Halls were all constructed between 1954 and 1959. In 1957, another addition to Barnes Hall was erected. This “third wing” had room for 120 men and incorporated a new innovation first used in Robinson Hall in 1954 - bathrooms in the suites as opposed to common bathrooms, which were found in the first two wings of Barnes Hall. Most students loved the individual bath facilities, but “about 10% of students [at the time] opposed private bathrooms, saying it would make it more difficult to meet people,” as Don Kilbourn, long-time CMU housing staff member noted.

Barnes Hall, ca. 1960s
One of the biggest changes in CMU Housing policies occurred at Barnes in 1971. It was the first hall to allow men and women to reside on the same floor of buildings. Of course, there were rules: students had to be over 21 or they had to have at least 55 credit hours and parental permission. But it was the start of a new era of co-ed living for Central students.

With Barnes Hall regularly filled to the gills with students - over 300 in the late 1950s - many notable alumni called the place home during their time at Central. Central’s first All-American in football, Jim Podoley was in Barnes (1953-54). So was Walter Beach, a professional football player and civil rights activist (1956-57). Broadcasting legend and student body president Dick Enberg called Barnes home from 1953-54. And Janice Fialka, an advocate for disability awareness and CMU commencement speaker in December 2018, hung her hat in Barnes from 1972-74.

And many memories were made by the students who lived in Barnes. Sometimes, it was because of a light-hearted story that brought attention to the students – like in 1964, when the men of Barnes adopted a family of ducks who lived in the courtyard near the building (pictured at right). Or in 1979, when Barnes students paid $20 to bring a 1968 Ford Galaxie to campus…to smash it up! The Barnes Dorm Board charged $0.25 per swing of a sledgehammer or three shots for $0.50 as a way of blowing off some steam at the end of the fall semester.

Other times, the memories were made because of the programs students participated in, such as the Leader Advancement Scholars or the Public Service Residential Community. And of course, thousands of Barnes Hall students have represented the hall in intramural sports.

But most importantly, the memories made were because of the major life changes students experienced while living in Barnes. A poem, found in the Old Ronan Hall when it was demolished in 1970, might best sum up the sentiment for all who passed through the doors of Barnes:

“I would like to know:
How many students laughed in this building? How many cried?
How many rebelled and then grew up?
How many didn’t?
How many found home within these walls?
How many found themselves?
How many housemothers lay awake in the night wondering if it was really worth it…
and found out that it was?
How do you measure love, so I can find out if anyone loved you more than I did?”

In only a few short weeks, we will say farewell to a building that has been a home to many and an anchor in the middle of CMU campus for over 60 years. We look forward to reading and hearing the memories of generations of students who fondly remember their times in this historic building.