Filling the dorms, and then some


Scale-model of Chandler Hall completed 1974

Scale-model of Chandler Hall completed 1974

1970's air view dorms

Madison College’s third president George Tyler Miller had expanded the school’s size and enrollment, both while changing one critical thing about the institution.  Miller had made the school coeducational, providing men’s dormitories on campus.  To support these changes, a plan was put in place to build new residence halls, many of  which were built between 1966 to 1970 near the end of Miller’s administration.  Two of these residence halls were Shorts Hall and Eagle Hall built in 1967 and 1970, respectively.  These are located behind the Quad and adjacent to Newman Lake.  However most of the residence halls in this plan were built behind the Quad and Hillcrest House creating an “back campus” extending almost to Interstate 81.  These back campus dormitories were referred to as the N-Complex dorms but are now called the Village Area.  These dorms needed to be filled and a young Dr. Carrier was the man for the job.

Dr. Carrier became the institution’s fourth president in 1971 and drastically changed the school in many ways.  He brought a vigorous growth plan to Madison College with a goal of bringing the roughly 4,000 1971 student body to 7,000 by 1980 and with a 40% male student ratio.  By 1980 enrollment was 8,817 with a 45% male student ratio.  To accomplish this feat, Carrier expanded curriculum programs and created sports programs to draw male interest.  And to support this surge in student population Weaver, Ikenberry, White, and Chandler residence halls were built in the N-complex area during the early 1970’s.  The Greek Row and Tree House dormitories were completed in 1978, located adjacent to the newly completed JMU Football Stadium, now named Bridgeforth Stadium.

On campus housing was once a “selling point of the university,” according to Dr. Mark Warner.  The university became popular for its residence life and during the first half of the 1970’s, housing was guaranteed to students all four years.  The residence halls on campus also appealed to the interests of many different students by offering several different living atmospheres for residents to choose to live.  These included: special ocassion visitation, weekend visitation, five day per week visitation, seven day visitation single sex hall, coeducational hall, and the off campus option of the Showalter Apartments.

Not all residence halls were completed in the same routine, although each of the N-complex dormitories are identical.  Ikenberry Hall, White Hall, and Chandler Hall were each financed without state funding.  Rather, these residence halls were funded through revenue bonds that were paid off through resident students’ rent payments.  During the 1970’s, on-campus housing saw a declining trend nationwide and the commonwealth of Virginia would not grant Madison College the money to build new dormitories.  However this did not stop President Carrier in his determination to further expand the college.  Chandler Hall was completed in 1974 and is unique in that it was opened as a student center and a residence hall and was the second building on campus to offer coeducational living.  Chandler also offered apartments on the first floor to students to rent at a rate above normal housing fees.  The new and unique facility was highly sought after at the time of its opening.

The housing department was forced to get creative on a couple different ocassions during the 1970’s to keep up with the school’s growing population. Ikenberry Hall was scheduled for completion before the start of the fall 1972 semester in late August, but was not completed until October.  This delay caused the school to rent space to house the incoming students from the local Belle Meade Motel and Massanetta Springs Hotel until the dormitory was completed.  And at the end of the 70’s, the University had to resort to trailers to accommodate the rapidly growing student body.  Several double-wide trailers were placed on the Hillside field next to the Warren Student Union in order to guarantee housing for the students.  These trailers remained on the field next to the hill until new residence halls could be built.  The next residence halls on campus would be built directly behind these trailers on the hill by the Wine Price building, forming a new area on campus fittingly named the “Hillside.”  The first Hillside dormitory, Bell Hall, was completed in 1982, McGraw-Long Hall was the next completed in 1984, and  Hillside Hall was the last to be completed in 1987.

Trailers in place of dorms in order to accommodate rapid student growth

Trailers in place of dorms in order to accommodate rapid student growth


Works Cited:

Hilton, Fred. “Changing from a College to a University: Madison College to James Madison University, 1971-1977.” Master’s thesis, James Madison University, 1996.

Dr. Mark Warner, Interview by Nicholas Spinner, 16 April 2013, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia.