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The Heights Throughout the Century: Taking a look at how campus construction has developed over time

Published: Sunday, January 27, 2013

Updated: Sunday, January 27, 2013 23:01

The reviews are in. With countless Tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagram photos to prove it, Stokes has been given the official stamp of approval by the student body. After months of putting up with the beeping noise of construction vehicles and muddy sidewalks from the Quad to McElroy, Boston College students finally get the $78 million academic building they deserve.

It seems as though BC is ever expanding. Nothing is stagnant and everything seems to be in consideration for renovation or just plain demolition. In other words, nothing is safe. Surprisingly, the renovation addiction that seems to have captured the minds of the administration is not a new trend. In fact, since just after World War II, BC has been undergoing a period of constant change and expansion. The general approval of this latest addition to campus sparked the question: Has every new building been as widely accepted as Stokes? If Instagram had been invented during the time of O’Neill Library’s construction and opening would the students have uploaded thousands of photos? The Heights issues of decades past provide the raw opinions of the student body on many of the buildings that may seem ancient to students today.

Devlin Hall was one of the first additions to the Chestnut Hill campus. Ground broke for the building in the spring of 1921, but classes did not begin until 1924. Although the building seamlessly matches the Gothic exterior of the already-constructed Gasson Hall, and the various buildings to be constructed around it, the methods of funding the building are very different from those of today. In an article published in The Heights on April 14, 1921, the writer begs the student body to attend a basketball game in which the BC team will play a past rival. All benefits will go to “the building fund.” According to this writer, “your attendance means the swelling of the building fund, and that is a duty in which every student of the college should take pleasure in performing.” And some people think asking for donations from alumni is being pushy.

The next expansion of the campus did not take place for almost 25 years. Imagine no construction in BC’s campus for a quarter of a century! Fulton Hall was commissioned to begin construction in June 1947. The purpose of the building was to replace the business school that had outgrown its small location on Newbury Street. Once again, the school began asking the public for funds for construction costs, totaling $600,000. (Stokes only cost 130 times more.) The slogan for the public campaign was coined by former University President Rev. William L. Keleher, S.J., “Buy Bricks for Boston College.” Many restrictions were placed on the construction of Fulton because the administration feared that the building would block the view of the iconic Gasson tower. Due to these regulations, Fulton had a very “squat” appearance until extensive renovations took place decades later.

Post-World War II, the administration not only began to focus on academic buildings, completing Lyons and thus the Quad in 1951, but also began to focus on athletic facilities. Alumni Stadium’s inaugural game took place on Sept. 21, 1957, with a crowd of 26,000 spectators watching the “birth and baptism of one of the newest and finest football stadiums in the East.” The ceremony made clear that the stadium was not to be used solely for athletic purposes, citing that it is “a fitting place for religious ceremonies, band concerts, and similar demonstrations.” The 26,000-person turnout spoke for itself as a roaring approval from the student body and surrounding community.

“‘When we were here,’ the grads of the ‘30s will tell you, ‘we used to eat our lunch standing up in the cellar of Gasson Hall.’” These were the words spoken by Richard Cardinal Cushing at the dedication of McElroy Commons on Nov. 9, 1961. Now the oldest dining facility on campus, McElroy was praised as a center for all students. The article from this issue of The Heights boasted about “a book store, a Campus Post Office, and a barber shop.” The new building would also be the home to many new academic departments along with organizations such as “The Heights [and] The Sub Turri,” which still call McElroy their homes today. Although rumors of McElroy’s demolition within the next 10 years have spread through campus, the once cutting-edge “student center” was a revolutionary step in the promotion and growth of student-run organizations on campus.

Even though BC is well known for its outstanding academics and competitive Division I sports teams, the administration had not forgotten about the ever-expanding theater arts program. On Oct. 30, 1981, the Boston College Dramatic Society (BCDS) opened the new $4.2 million Theater Arts Center, later to be dedicated as Robsham Theater, with the performance of Camelot. Many students cited that the “lighting system [had] malfunctioned shortly before the performance,” but otherwise most were impressed by the new 600-person theater on Lower Campus.

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