Demolition began early this year on the building housing the University Store, making way for a facility that will feature the store’s new home on the first level and six floors of dormitory suites above. This is yet another transition for an area of campus that has seen more change than any other.
Seven acres of land were purchased in 1868 that initially included the first campus dormitory on its western section. The sloping, hillside plot to the east lay empty until 1890, when female students of the Bloomsburg State Normal School organized a lawn tennis club. Unable to raise enough money to build the campus tennis courts, the students turned to the Board of Trustees for assistance and two courts were completed by late October.
The courts were heavily used for more than 60 years, but by 1952 there was a need to expand the physical campus to meet the demands of the growing student body. When funding became available for one construction project, officials decided to build a separate dining facility to replace the dining room in the Waller Hall dormitory. The new facility would be located at the site of the original tennis courts.
At the end of 1955, final plans were completed and bids were awarded. Construction began with the removal of the courts and most of the work was completed by April 1957 at a total cost of more than $450,000. During the week-long Easter recess, the maintenance staff performed the monumental task of moving all of the equipment into the College Commons, cleaning the interior, and washing the new plastic dishes so food could be served when classes resumed.
On April 23, 1957, the College Commons officially opened its doors for the first time. The oak-paneled hall accommodated up to 800 students in an area brightened by a continuous wall of glass on the south side. The tiled kitchen and storage rooms contained the latest equipment, and in cold weather students could walk to the Commons from adjacent Waller Hall through an underground tunnel.
When the Commons o pened, enrollment at the Bloomsburg State Teachers College was less than 1,200 students. By 1966, it had risen to 3,000 with another 1,000 expected within five years. Faced with another explosion in growth, officials planned a new, larger facility that opened in the spring of 1970 as the William W. Scranton Commons. At the same time, planning was under way for a building to the north of Waller Hall that would serve as a student union. Since the new building would not be completed until 1973, the former commons was renovated and served for three years as a temporary student union featuring a snack bar, lounges and recreation areas with pool and ping-pong tables.
When work on the Marguerite W. Kehr College Union was completed, the former commons and temporary union was again renovated, this time as a home for the college store. The new location, which opened Nov. 26, 1973, greatly expanded the store from its previous location in Waller Hall. Also relocating from Waller Hall was the campus police headquarters, which occupied an area on the building’s ground floor.
Other than altering its name from College Store to University Store when Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education was formed in 1983, little changed from 1973 until 1999. Then in March 1999, the store’s merchandise was moved to the former Harvey A. Andruss Library, now the Robert D. Warren Student Services Center, while its building was remodeled. The University Store reopened that fall as an updated, modern facility. Likewise, the University Store is now temporarily relocated in the Kehr Union until the new residence hall’s expected opening in August 2017. •