Historic Dallas Hall turns 100 years old
Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 19:12
On Nov. 28, 2012, SMU celebrated the centennial of the laying of Dallas Hall’s cornerstone with a ceremony for the Dallas Hall Society in the Dallas Hall rotunda. The celebrations began with a 30-day countdown on Homecoming weekend, where SMU staff, faculty, students and alumni all signed cards to wish Dallas Hall a happy birthday. The Dallas Hall Society extended their gratitude to those who helped the university through their contributions.
Dallas Hall has been the face of SMU for nearly 100 years and was SMU’s first building. Even though the cornerstone was laid in 1912, the building was completed after three years. It was inspired by the Roman Pantheon and the library Thomas Jefferson designed for the University of Virginia.
At first, Dallas Hall enclosed all of SMU: classrooms, offices, a library, a hamburger grill, science laboratories, piano practice rooms, a chapel, an attic apartment, a barber shop, a post office and a mummy.
Construction for other classroom buildings did not begin until 1925. Dallas Hall has remained the home of liberal arts classes and a popular gathering place for students.
After investing $1.9 million for renovation, Dallas Hall reopened its doors with major changes to classrooms. The chapel on the third floor was replaced by what’s now McCord Auditorium and the first elevator was replaced by stairways.
Through the renovations, the most meaningful restoration was the changes made to the office of the first president of SMU, Robert S. Hyer. The office was restored to its original size and the oval desk which belonged to President Hyer was returned to the room.
The seal was also added on the marble floor of the rotunda. Some student believe that thosese who step on the seal will not graduate.
Dallas Hall is also home to one of the most important traditions at SMU: Celebration of Lights. The event kicks off the holiday season with the lighting of Dallas Hall and the surrounding trees. The Christmas tree in front of the building is also lit up and President R. Gerald Turner reads a Christmas story.
Considering its significance today, the building’s past shouldn’t be forgotten. University archivist, Joan Gosnell spoke of the history saying, “The beginnings of Southern Methodist University were not smooth. The Fred A. Jones Building Company, the contractors who built Dallas Hall, went bankrupt halfway through the project. The building site was often mired in mud. Today, when we look at the building it can be easy to forget its humble roots, but Dallas Hall has become grand and stately.”
Through the years, Dallas Hall remains the most prominent building on campus and is now home of Dedman College. It has become a rite of passage for those entering SMU and those who graduate.
Junior Katherine Ladner was delighted to be a part of the celebration.
“I am so thankful to be at a wonderful university and may the next 100 years be even better.,” she said.
SMU was honored in 2006 by Preservation Dallas for the restoration and renovation of Dallas Halls’ rotunda and dome and returning the building to its 1915 grandeur.