At home on campus
Like the name of your first crush or kindergarten teacher, it’s unlikely that you’ve forgotten your college dormitory. Follow our dormitory dateline to find where you studied, hung your posters, celebrated birthdays, slept in, and listened to music. Whether it was Elvis on a roommate’s hi-fi, the Eagles on an eight-track player, or Madonna on CD, the technology of the day doesn’t really matter. Let the reminiscing begin!
Fairest of them all: Connie Hall
1931 What’s the “prettiest” building on the Bradley campus? A top vote-getter would have to be Constance Hall, sitting next to its decidedly younger but less attractive neighbor, University Hall. Before the School of Music took it over in 1962, Constance Hall was the women’s dormitory. Fondly referred to as Connie Hall by alumnae who resided there, the tan brick building had a tragic origin. It was constructed in honor of Jennie Constance, head of Bradley’s English department from 1919 to 1928. While pursuing her Ph.D. at Northwestern University during the summer of 1928, Miss Constance was robbed and murdered in Evanston. Peoria-area women’s clubs took on the cause, helping raise $65,000 for the building.
The sisterhood of Connies had its own chorus, a fall dance, spring formal, and monthly formal dinners to celebrate birthdays. Constance could accommodate just 43 young women.
By many names
Before Constance Hall was erected, Laura Cottage was the only campus housing for female students. In 1925, the 20 residents each paid $40 per semester for their rooms. Upon the completion of Constance Hall, Laura Cottage opened its doors to men and became known as Freshman Hall. Its nickname, the Greenhouse, came from the green beanies worn by freshmen. Finally, in 1946, it was renamed Sisson House.
1932 The Great Depression prompts Bradley to offer summer school students the option of camping in an orchard.
1937 In memory of his wife, Charles Wyckoff, dean emeritus, donates $25,000 upon his retirement, as well as his house and life insurance. His remodeled home becomes Glenwood Hall, a residence for nine coeds.
1944 The stately pillared building that began its life on campus in 1904 as the USDA’s Weather Bureau becomes North Hall, a dormitory for 15 young women and their housemother. Seven years later, it is renamed Alumni Hall and converted into offices for the dean of students, as well as alumni work. Its 1957 demolition allows for construction of the original Baker Hall.
1948 Room and board ranges from $210 to $240 per semester for women. Men pay $65 to $80 each semester but purchase meals elsewhere.
Building boom begins 1951
Housing needs were great from 1951 to 1971, and one dormitory after another began to dot the Bradley campus. For several years they had utilitarian names like Men’s Residence Hall and Women’s Dormitory — not surprising when you consider the Gothic campus building that went by “Gymnasium” for 50 years.
Attaching names to the buildings seemed to happen almost by chance in 1957. Bradley President Harold P. Rodes was in Los Angeles and paid a visit to 96-year-old Charles Truman Wyckoff, an esteemed dean emeritus. A month later, the Board of Trustees approved many of Wyckoff’s suggestions for naming buildings, as well as floors, in honor of the respected leaders who helped shape Bradley Polytechnic Institute. The generic men’s dormitories became Burgess and Sisson. The new women’s dorm was named Lovelace. In 1959, the gymnasium was even given a name — Hewitt Hall, for Cecil Hewitt, Bradley vice president and longtime track coach.
1951 Five dormitories in four separate structures are built in close proximity during an 11-year span. That tends to make the squarish, four-story buildings difficult to tell apart. Students still reside in two of them, while the others were converted to offices or classrooms long ago.
The first to open is the Main Street wing of the L-shaped Men’s Residence Hall in 1951. Its basement cafeteria, The Huddle, seats 120. Not until 1957 is the dorm named Burgess Hall in honor of Dr. Theodore Burgess, Bradley president from 1906 to 1925. Also in 1957, names for its four floors are given, including Ashman House (Dr. George Ashman, chemistry), Bishop (Frederic Bishop, physics), Crawshaw (Fred Crawshaw, woodworking), and Parsons (J.R. Parsons, first dean of the School of Horology). As demand for female housing skyrockets, Burgess becomes a women’s dormitory in 1959. Women pay $10 less per month to live there than at Constance Hall.
Facing Elmwood Avenue, the second wing of the Men’s Residence Hall complex opens soon after the first. Together, the two wings accommodate 441 men. Students share 17 study rooms. In 1957, the Elmwood wing is named Sisson Hall for Edward O. Sisson, the first director of Bradley Polytechnic Institute. Its floors are also given names: Swaim House (Verne Swain, physics and dean of men), Brown (Fred Brown, athletics director), Hewitt (Cecil Hewitt, vice president), and Moffatt House (William Moffatt, Latin and Greek). Sisson now adjoins the Michel Student Center and houses Human Resources, housing, student support services, and student organization offices.
Frats on Fredonia, Sororities too
Whether or not you were “Greek,” there’s a street just a block south of campus that you’re bound to remember. Two long blocks of Fredonia Avenue have been home to rushing, parties, rituals, and Homecoming decorations for more than 50 years.
Plans for a fraternity row began in 1956 when Bradley trustees, intent on beautifying campus to go along with the University’s new Student Center, set out to convert the north side of Fredonia into building lots for Greek housing. Before that time, chapter houses for sororities and fraternities were in old houses near campus. As Bradley’s student body swelled, many of the houses were outgrown. Some were demolished for the expanding footprint of campus.
“Attractive and adequate fraternity housing will be an asset to the University in many ways,” Leslie H. Tucker, dean of students, said in 1956. “It will strengthen the fraternity system, and it will attract new students.”
Today, 16 Greek houses sit along or adjacent to Fredonia; three fraternities are on Bradley Avenue. Chi Omega remains at its longtime location, although last year its block of Glenwood was renamed Tobias Lane. About one-third of Bradley’s undergraduates are currently members of a social fraternity or sorority.
By 1956, Bradley has 3,043 students, and 601 are female. A new dormitory, overlooking Main Street and the Pi Beta Phi house, opens that year for 150 of the women. Automobile traffic can no longer traverse the heart of campus as the new construction permanently closes Institute Place at Main. The following year, the dormitory is named for Gladys and Thomas Lovelace, a longtime Bradley trustee and vice president of Commercial National Bank, who made a $100,000 gift to Bradley. The respective floors of Lovelace are named in honor of Bradley employees: Huston House (Mary Blossom Huston, modern languages), Bartlett (Helen Bartlett, dean of women), Kedzie (Nellie Kedzie, head of home economics), and Schmidt (Emma Schmidt, presidents’ secretary; Ida Schmidt, home ec professor).
1957 Women pay $365 per semester for room and board. Housing for male students costs $100 to $150 per semester without meals. Some rooms are available off campus for men, renting for $20 to $35 per month.
1959 Twenty-two years after his retirement, original faculty member Charles Wyckoff is honored with the naming of Wyckoff Hall. Five houses are demolished to construct the 180-bed hall. A decade later, Wyckoff Hall is connected to the new Harper Hall, and the two share an expansive lobby. Wyckoff remains a men’s dormitory until 1996 when women move onto the first floor. There is only one stumbling block with the switch — not enough space for women’s clothing until a second closet is added to the rooms. Today, most Wyckoff residents are freshmen.
Just as today’s student body can scarcely imagine a world without computers and cell phones, the notion of a different set of rules for male and female students is difficult to fathom. Greater freedom for men was the norm on college campuses during the middle decades of the 20th century. Young women had hours (or curfews) and rules about where they could live. Most were from Peoria and lived at home with their families.
Women All non-resident freshman women were required to reside in Bradley dormitories. The rules specified that all sophomores and upper-class women reside in either a dormitory or sorority house under the guidance of a housemother. Exceptions were in the case of mature women who were 25 years old; women who had the opportunity to live in a private home, securing their board and room for services rendered; or women desiring to live near relatives.
Men Out-of-town freshmen were offered the “privileges” of the residence advisory system. Later, freshmen were required to live in a Bradley dorm, “unless for good and sufficient reason” special permission would be given for them to live elsewhere.
Then came the 1970s and the proposed Equal Rights Amendment, and coed dorms were quickly ushered in. As a rule, males and females inhabited the same residence hall but lived on different floors; however, Williams Hall was different. With lounges and bathrooms dividing each floor down the middle, its design allowed for men on one side and women on the other.
1962 That’s what the Anaga called it anyway. Heitz Hall boasted four washers and dryers and an amazing 10 telephones for its 250 female residents when it opened in 1962. IRENE PHILLIPS HEITZ, 1906, donated $50,000 for furnishing the four-story dormitory. Food in its dining room was the last to be served family-style on campus. Heitz Hall was extensively remodeled recently.
1964 University Hall opens its doors on Bradley Avenue as the new college home for 375 male students. Three Bradley-owned houses, the Conservatory of Music, and the old Sigma Nu house were torn down to build the $1.4 million dorm — twice the size of any other on campus at the time. In 1971, U-Hall becomes a women’s-only residence hall. Today, it serves as Bradley’s main freshman dorm. Its cafeteria was closed for years, but now it operates as Lydia’s Lounge with food and entertainment.
1966 Anne Collier Williams is present at the dedication of Williams Hall, built with a donation from Mrs. Williams and her late husband, Dr. HERBERT WILLIAMS, 1905, a great-nephew of Lydia Moss Bradley. The five-story, $2 million structure initially houses women, although it is designed to be versatile enough to accommodate women, men, or both. By the early ’70s, it is a coed dorm featuring two cafeterias. The basement features a coffeehouse for a short time.
1969 The new and improved Harper — a seven-story, 135-room structure — opens for men in 1969. One of its most appreciated features is air conditioning. Its location next to Avanti’s makes late-night runs for pizza bread and gondolas a little too convenient. The restaurant moved in 1989, but it is still perilously close — just across Main Street. Harper Hall honors Dr. William Rainey Harper, the first director of Bradley’s faculty. The original structure, built in the 1880s by Lydia Moss Bradley as a home for aged women, accommodated about 80 male students from 1946 until it became a residence for women in 1951.
Reaching for new heights
1971 Bradley’s tallest building, Geisert Hall, is dedicated in 1971, a month after the death of its namesake, Charles Geisert. The Pekin floral wholesaler left more than $400,000 to Bradley. The $2.6 million hall was built to house 289 men and 108 women. In 1986, a major selling point of the 10-story dorm was that some rooms were equipped with a computer and printer. An extreme remodel to its popular cafeteria in 2011 includes a kosher kitchen.
Hell no, we won’t go
1971 Sisson residents protest the closing of their dorm but move to other dorms in January 1972.
Mixing men and women
1971 Harvard offers coed living in 1970. Bradley isn’t far behind, introducing the college housing trend in 1971 — first with Burgess Hall and then the new Geisert Hall. Freshman women no longer have “hours.” Twenty-four-hour visitation is implemented with young men and women free to visit each other’s room.
1972 Refrigerators, the 1.7-cubic-foot variety, are permitted in dorm rooms. Even better, each room comes equipped with a phone.
At the YMCA
1977 Housing is in such short supply that almost 200 students are assigned rooms in the YMCA in downtown Peoria. Buses transport them to and from campus.
1979 The housing shortage prompts Bradley to build the six-story Student Apartment Complex (SAC) east of campus on Underhill Avenue. Its name may be a bit bland, but SAC helps meet the demand for housing with its 100 unfurnished, one-bedroom units.
1981 In the vicinity of the giant old satellite dish, three singles dorms are built near Geisert Hall on St. James. Each with 50 rooms, they are named after streets: Elmwood, St. James, and Windom. Two are later renamed Wendle and Lovelace. Residents have 88 square feet of living space with furniture to arrange as they wish.
1982 The Department of Nursing takes over Burgess Hall. From 1972 to 1976, a portion of the building housed the Peoria School of Medicine (now known as the University of Illinois College of Medicine, Peoria).
1988 Sisson is connected to the Student Center as the major campus gathering spot undergoes a $2 million renovation.
1989 Bradley’s Health Center in Heitz Hall is swamped when a springtime measles outbreak affects 107 students. Those who can’t go home are quarantined and cared for in the Heitz basement.
1990 Many off-campus rentals are torn down as Campustown shopping center is developed.
Off campus options
PEORIA — Of course, not all campus-area rentals were so dreadful. Some landlords cared about their properties and tenants. In an area with limited rentals, however, it wasn’t so unusual to encounter landlords who managed to gouge students with unreasonable rents and/or substandard housing. As for returning security deposits, that was often unlikely — even if students had left the place spotless.
The construction of new apartments made the off-campus housing situation more favorable. A housing shortage prompted Bradley to build the six-story Student Apartment Complex (SAC) in 1979.
Two decades later came an even more groundbreaking development — St. James Place apartments. Bradley students could have bedrooms of their own while sharing common living space that included a well-equipped kitchen. Then in 2011, for students whose wants include the amenities they’re accustomed to at home (a private bathroom, laundry machines, and garage parking, for instance) came a new development—Main Street Commons. The complex features 88 two- and three-bedroom units.
Dorms in a jiffy
1990 Enrollment reaches its highest level in 22 years. Bradley answers the surge with three 35-resident “mini-dorms” on Bradley Avenue, plus Becker Hall, a temporary residence hall for 98 students. Becker is constructed in record time — 3½ weeks — adjacent to the Garrett Center. Its demolition in January 1995 makes way for the new Global Communications Center. As for the trio of mini-dorms, one is College Hall for women, and the other two brick buildings become fraternity houses.
1990 Lovelace Hall on Main Street is greatly enlarged and transformed into Baker Hall, the home of the business college. The Lovelace name lives on with the renaming of one of the three singles dorms located near the Bradley Bookstore.
1994 Dorm dwellers pay $4,440 for the year in room and board, including 20 meals per week.
1999 Four brick apartment buildings open for fall semester at St. James Place, a fenced development adjacent to campus. Seven more buildings are ready in 2000, as well as an intramural athletic field, Meinen Field. Eventually, St. James becomes a 15-building complex on almost 10 acres. It continues to be a popular option for 550 Bradley students in modern one-, two-, three-, and four-bedroom apartments.
1999 Williams Hall offers the first residence hall food court, operating from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The vegetarian program at the Geisert cafeteria is in its sixth year.
2001 After his death in 1999, St. James Hall is renamed Wendle Hall for TIM WENDLE ’72 MA ’81. The naming of the singles dorm honors the popular director of residential life, while it also eliminates confusion with the St. James Place apartments.
2003 Students pay $5,980 in room and board.
2011 Remember Walgreens? Or going back a bit further, the A&P grocery store? The Main Street Commons complex with 88 units took the drugstore’s place, giving Bradley its most amenity-rich housing option to date — including a private bathroom for each bedroom. Each two- and three-bedroom furnished unit has its own washer and dryer, as well as furniture and a wall-mounted HDTV. Downstairs there’s a fitness room, media room, coffee shop, and clothing boutique. For an added fee, garage parking is available below the $13 million, five-story building.
2013 Bradley residence halls offer 2,140 beds for students. An online lesson with tips and expectations for living off campus must be completed by students not living in one of the 12 halls. Room and board is $8,700 for the school year.
Visit bradley.edu/go/ht-housingplaylist for video tours of housing options now available to Bradley students.
The way we were
A wall of miniature residence hall rooms is a star attraction at the Hayden-Clark Alumni Center. From matching pink plaid bedspreads to today’s lofted beds, the dioramas are outfitted with miniature decor that many former dorm dwellers will recognize.
– Gayle Erwin McDowell ’77