Waller Hall: Center of Campus Life


IF THERE IS ONE iconic image of Bloomsburg University that lives on in the minds of alumni from years past, it is the Long Porch on the Waller Hall dormitory. Stretching impressively along Second Street, the porch was lined with rocking chairs where socializ- ing students admired a gorgeous view looking out over the Susquehanna River Valley. Many fond memories were made there, but it was not the first campus building on the site. The first was a dormitory that lasted just seven years.

In 1867, several months after the completion of Carver Hall, the Bloomsburg Literary Institute had an opportunity to offer teacher education as a normal school, but a dormitory was required for the transformation. Ground was broken in summer 1868, the facility was completed the following year, and the institute became the Bloomsburg State Normal School. But, on Sept. 4, 1875, the campus’ first dormitory burned. The new one that began to rise in its place less than two months later would officially be named Waller Hall in 1927, honoring David J. Waller Jr., the two-term principal of the normal school.

The new dormitory, completed in 1876, contained not only rooms for male and female students, but also the campus dining room, a kitchen and apartments for the normal school principal, faculty and staff. An addition constructed in 1891 included a porch and an enlarged area for the dining room; an annex completed three years later connected the facility to the model school, which provided additional space for a library, faculty offices and more dorm rooms. While Carver Hall held only classrooms and an auditorium, Waller Hall was the center of campus life.

As the normal school and, later, state teachers college grew during the first half of the 20th century, numerous improvements updated the dormitory’s appearance and usefulness, including elevators and the remodeled dining room and library. A large lobby created near the west entrance became an active social area, and Tiffany windows were placed in the annex. Many of the rooms previously occupied by female students were remodeled in 1942 to house the male naval cadets who trained at the college during World War II. A brick porch replaced the original wooden one in fall 1949, and a fountain was installed in the courtyard the following year.

The most profound changes took place during the building’s last 25 years of existence, as enrollment continued to grow and students needed places to congre- gate. When the president’s office and the business office moved to the remodeled Carver Hall in 1954, space opened in Waller for a larger lobby and social area. Likewise, the Husky Lounge was born in 1956 when the gymnasium, added to the building in 1894, was converted to a place to socialize and enjoy a snack. The function of other spaces within Waller changed as well. In 1957, after the College Commons was completed, the first-floor din- ing room became the new library. And, when the library, now the Warren Student Services Center, opened in 1966, the bookstore and additional study space filled in where the library had been located.

But even before the mid-1960s, Waller’s demise was in the plans, along with its replacement: a mod- ern dormitory. Waller Hall came down in sections, starting with the connection to the former model school in 1967 to make room for the Scranton Commons. The last students moved from Waller to Columbia Hall in December 1970 and during summer 1971 the Husky Lounge was demolished to make room for Kehr Union. By 1973, only a few faculty offices remained in Waller Hall, and the landmark building disappeared from the campus landscape in January 1975 to be replaced by Lycoming Residence
Hall the following year.

Although Waller Hall is gone, it is more than a memory. The Andruss Library, which opened in 1998, sports a portico reminiscent of the Long Porch; Waller’s Tiffany windows are visible above the por- tico, looking out over the Academic Quadrangle. Adjacent to the library, Dr. Waller’s name graces another structure, the Waller Administration Building, introducing his legacy to each new generation of students.

Robert Dunkelberger, University Archivist

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