How we’ve Grown: JMU’s Campus Through the Years 1930-1964

by Jenny Nehrt, Student Assistant                                                                                     

This week we continue the journey of JMU’s expansion, spanning from 1930-1964.  This was a period of continued expansion as the Normal School accepted more and more young women into the college.   Enrollment doubled in this time, from about 700 students in 1930 to 2,000 in 1964.  From crammed housing to long dinner lines, students cried out for more facilities in the 1930s, which the administration swiftly answered.

groupofgirls       Normal Students in the partitioned cafeteria in Harrison Hall, undated, JMU Historic Photo Collection

The first new building during this time period was Wilson Hall.  It was built in 1931 and named for Woodrow Wilson.   Many easily recognize JMU by the iconic cupola of Wilson Hall. Those who have been inside the cupola say it is possible to see all the way to Staunton, Wilson’s birthplace, on a clear day.  The newly completed Wilson Hall housed administrative offices and an auditorium.

wilson1934             Postcard of Wilson Hall, 1934

The next step was to expand the library from its original location in Science Hall (now Maury Hall) to its current location.    Originally named Madison Memorial Library, Carrier Library (renamed in 1984) opened with a small collection of only 2,000 books.  The expanded stacks space allowed the library holdings to continue to grow in support of the ever-growing student population.

libsketchArchitectural sketch of Madison Memorial Library, 1934

President Samuel Page Duke (President from 1919-1949) continued the early work of President Burruss to not only expand the size of the Harrisonburg Normal, but also to increase the academic rigor of the institution through focusing the curricula.  The Harrisonburg Normal became The State Teachers College at Harrisonburg, and then in 1938 the name changed again to Madison College in honor of James Madison, the fourth president of the United States.  The shift from teaching potential teachers to providing a traditional liberal arts education brought new students and faculty.

madisonMadison College Sign, JMU Historic Photo Collection

With the name change, campus expansion continued for the, now, Madisonians.  Madison College continued to build dormitories for housing.  Senior students were given privileged housing in Senior Hall in 1935 (renamed Converse Hall in 1957).

converse       Senior Hall, undated, JMU Historic Photos Collection

The Juniors were relegated to Junior Hall, which was renamed to Cleveland Hall in 1957.  These dorms, like the other living quarters on campus, had a hostess who kept watch over the girls and ensured all rules and regulations were being followed.

juniohall            Junior Hall, undated, Postcard

With over 1,100 science students and only three classrooms and one laboratory, President Miller deemed the science facilities in desperate straits, making the next big project Burruss Hall.  The new building opened in 1953 with proper facilities for the biology, chemistry, mathematics, geography, chemistry, and geology departments.


burruss     Burruss Hall, undated, JMU Historic Photos Collection

In 1964, Madison College voyaged into completely uncharted territory.  Gibbons Hall (or “D-Hall” as it is now affectionately called) was the first major building on “Back Campus” and a total break from the school’s architectural tradition. It was circular-shaped, and, gasp, not bluestone!  It opened on June 15, 1964 to throngs of hungry students and has continued to serve grateful students since.

gibbonsconstuction    Gibbons Hall under construction, JMU Historic Photos Collection

By 1965, Madison College had over 3,000 students and campus seemed like it was about to burst at the seams.  In the next installment, we’ll tackle Madison College’s housing problems and the construction of the Village dormitories.


2 Replies to “How we’ve Grown: JMU’s Campus Through the Years 1930-1964”

  1. The architectural drawing of the library should be 1938 rather than 1934–may also be worth mentioning the library moving from Maury to Harrison prior to current location?

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