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Then and Now: Campus Buildings Evolve

Syracuse University’s facilities plan advances innovation and accessibility to meet emerging demands and help shape the future of student life.

An old vs. new comparison of renovations done to dining facilities in the Brewster, Bolland and Brockway dorms.
Brewster, Boland and Brockway, circa 1980, and today.

In higher education, excellence can be achieved only when attention is paid to the whole student, including the physical space that students inhabit. Syracuse University is continually creating world-class facilities that help students reach their academic, personal and professional goals. Some of the newest changes to the campus landscape are the state-of-the-art health and wellness facilities at the Barnes Center at The Arch and the recently unveiled National Veterans Resource Center , while other transformations—like the revamped Schine Student Center—are still in progress.

Responding to shifts in student needs is nothing new, and Syracuse University has always adapted to meet emerging demands as the world becomes increasingly complex, diverse and interconnected. Here is a retrospective of other transformations to instructional and living spaces that have improved accessibility, technology and aesthetics in ways that have shaped the future of our students and our campus.

BBB Complex

When they first opened in 1968, Brewster, Boland and Brockway halls were known as the “St. Mary’s complex” because they were located on the site of the former St. Mary’s Cemetery. Construction of the Interstate 81 overpass in the 1950s had necessitated that the cemetery be moved to nearby DeWitt. Syracuse University spent $8.25 million building the original BBB complex, in which residents of each building shared a central dining area. In 2018, the dining room was updated from top to bottom with a new serving layout, additional food options and new seating. The renovations included accessible dining hall counters and restrooms, as well as a ramp. Plans for this summer include installation of an updated HVAC system, as well as new site lighting at the perimeter of the halls and the sidewalk leading to the north side of the Syracuse VA Medical Center.

Bird Library

An old vs. new comparison of renovations done to Bird Library.
Bird Library, circa 1972, and today.

Carnegie Library was constructed in 1907 to house Syracuse University’s celebrated collections, and by the late 1960s the building held twice the collections and six times the staffing as originally intended, so a new library became a priority. Bird Library was named in honor of Ernest Stevenson Bird ’1916, who donated $3 million of the $8 million construction budget. Bird Library’s first 10 million items came from consolidating holdings of Carnegie Library, the library annex in the Continental Can Building and branch libraries. Moving the items in took over a month. Bird’s structure is supported without major walls, using columns instead to create an open space that allows flexible design. A redesign of the lower floors was completed in 2014, and today Bird is the central hub of innovative programs. On the second floor, the Syracuse Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Engagement , known as The SOURCE, encourages undergraduate participation, creative inquiry and collaboration in research. On the first floor, the Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars at SU Libraries offers student, faculty and staff innovators opportunities for entrepreneurship. Bird has been serving as a temporary home to the LGBT Resource Center , the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Disability Cultural Center while the Schine Student Center is under renovation.

DellPlain Hall

When the DellPlain residence hall opened in fall 1961, it offered a kitchenette and a study room on every floor. Students read in the library and relaxed in the student lounge. A 1992 renovation added a snack bar, main lounge and carpeting, and modified the floor plan to create four-person suites and single rooms. The latest two-phase renovation began in summer 2019. Jennifer Uryniak, interim director of auxiliary services, says the new spaces reflect the evolving needs of students: “Technology plays a larger role—and we’re adapting the residence halls to accommodate smart study rooms with built-in technology and large-screen televisions with gaming plug-ins for lounges. We’ve also had requests for package lockers to accommodate online orders.” Other considerations include increasing privacy by constructing single-user, gender-neutral bathrooms. The shift from desktop to laptop computers has made large desks a thing of the past. Phase one of the project was completed in August 2019, with new room layouts, furniture, flooring and other finishes on floors six through eight. The second phase begins this summer and will include student room renovations on floors one through five and updates to the first-floor lounges.

Dineen Hall

An old vs. new comparison of renovations done to the Law School library.
Dineen Hall, circa 1960, and today.

Syracuse University’s College of Law was one of the more transient schools after its inception in 1895, moving to five different locations in the city of Syracuse before finding its original permanent home on campus at White Hall. Completed in 1954 at a cost of $922,000, White Hall had a law library, practice courtrooms and classrooms. The Arnold M. Grant Auditorium was constructed at the south end of the building in 1966, and the Barclay Law Library was completed on the north side in 1985. To meet the evolving demands of law students, the University constructed Dineen Hall in 2014 at a cost of $68 million. This highly energy-efficient “green” building is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified. In addition to an expanded library space and study rooms, Dineen features leading-edge training facilities for the College of Law’s championship Moot Court and trial advocacy teams.

Hall of Languages

An old vs. new comparison of renovations done to classrooms in the Hall of Languages.
Hall of Languages, circa 1979, and today.

Built on 50 acres of farmland in southeast Syracuse, the Hall of Languages—Syracuse University’s first structure—was completed in 1873 at a cost of $136,000. Coal houses and stables were located at the rear of the building. Two large water tanks were built into the east and west towers as a fire suppression system. The tanks would flood the structure in the event of fire. The iconic central tower was added in 1886. The Hall of Languages was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, and its interior was practically rebuilt in 1979. This renovation included the addition of an elevator, replacement of wooden floors with concrete floors and installation of steel columns to replace the original timber columns. In 2017, auditorium seating and HVAC improvements were installed, and instructional spaces were upgraded with new carpeting, paint and classroom technology.

Manley Field House

An old vs. new comparison of renovations done to Manley Field House.
Manley Field House, circa 2000, and today.

After its construction was delayed by the escalation of the Korean War in 1950, Manley Field House was opened to the public in December 1962. The arena was originally slated as an all-purpose facility for basketball, track, baseball, lacrosse and football practice, and for such nonacademic events as concerts, dance marathons and convocations. Although many of these functions were moved to the Dome after 1980, Manley has remained an important part of Syracuse Athletics . A new football program wing added in 1991 was dedicated as the George R. Iocolano and William C. Petty Football Wing in 1996. The Roy Simmons Sr. Coaches Center was added in 1995. In 2012, the Orange football facility was upgraded with new locker and shower rooms. Lockers now include charging stations for mobile devices and are designed to dry out sweaty clothing and keep the locker room smelling fresh. New showers, restrooms, energy efficient lighting and flat screens keep Manley Field House updated for another generation of Orange athletes.

Brandon Dyer

This story was published on .

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