Messenger - Vol. 2, No. 1, Page 4
Fall 1992
Memorial Hall Memories

     Perhaps no other building on campus has seen as many varied activities
as stately and historic Memorial Hall. In days past, the building has
housed the University library, the bookstore, the post office and an art
gallery. At least through the early l940s, it was daily witness to a hushed
ritual honoring Delaware's war dead, and later in that decade Memorial Hall
harbored the hubbub of the first Scrounge.
     As the building's purposes changed, so did its appearance. Inspired by
a photograph of the remodeling of Memorial Library sent to us by William J.
Mearns, Delaware '36, we did a little digging into the building's history
and found several other interesting photos in the University Archives.
     Some of the highlights of Memorial Hall's history include:

The '20s
   * An unprecedented state-wide building fund campaign was launched to
     raise $300,000 for the first official library building that would
     serve both the men's and women's colleges and also provide a memorial
     to the 262 World War I dead from Delaware. Hence the name, Memorial
     Hall. School children, PTAs and almost every interest group in the
     state were encouraged to donate to what campaign literature called "A
     wonderful memorial to the heroic dead who gave their lives in the
     world war so that we today might have our schools, our homes, our
     state and peaceful civilization."
   * An historic groundbreaking on Dec. 11, 1923, was memorialized in a
     series of post cards. Administrators and faculty from the Men's
     College rolled up their sleeves and pitched in, shoveling, hauling
     away wheelbarrows full of dirt and stopping for a lunch break,
     provided by faculty and students from the Women's College.
   * A dedication ceremony, full of pomp and circumstance, on May 23,
     1925, was attended by 1,200 persons. Flags flew, soldiers and other
     service units marched and the college administrators wore full
     academic regalia.
The '30s
   * A devastating flood on July 5, l937, ruined books and papers on the
     lower levels of the stacks in the basement of Memorial Hall. In an
     heroic effort, librarian William Ditto Lewis worked from early evening
     to 3:30 a.m., sometimes alone and sometimes with the help of a few
     others, lugging books to higher ground.
   * A hushed and traditional ceremony was performed from the day the
     building opened, continuing each day at least through l940, in which a
     member of the campus ROTC would step up to the book of the dead in the
     lobby, unlock its glass case and turn one page. On each page is listed
     just one student's name who died in World War I. Today, the staff of
     the Arts and Science Advisement Center carry on the tradition.
The '40s
   * A large-scale addition and renovation of the building was completed
     in l940, bringing additional space and seating to the library and
     locker rooms, seminar rooms, a museum room (eventually replaced with
     The Scrounge), a post office, bookstore and faculty offices.
The '50s
   * A dedication ceremony for the University's carillon was held on May
     16, 1959, by the 20 surviving members of the Class of l907, who
     donated the carillon, "in the hopes that the sound of these bells will
     warm the hearts and lift the thoughts of those who pass this way."
The '60s
   * A large conveyor belt was placed across campus from Memorial Hall to
     the new Morris Library, which opened in l963. More than 300,000
     volumes, hundreds of reels of microfilm, sound recordings and other
     library equipment were taken from the shelves, put in boxes and
     "conveyed" across the lawn. The move from Memorial to Morris was
     completed in four weeks.
The '70s
   * Between l971 and l974, the original paper bell master roll in the
     carillon was replaced with an audio tape system. Originally, there
     were five different tapes with music for national holidays, Easter,
     Thanksgiving, Christmas and one of general music. At the request of
     then-President E. A. Trabant, a tape of the alma mater was made on
     tubular bells in the Amy E. du Pont Music Building and played every
     morning on the carillon.
The '80s
   * In l980-l98l, Memorial Hall was once again under construction, this
     time to restore the columns and replace the capitals (tops of columns)
     and the rotunda crown, which had deteriorated.
   * In l985, the outmoded reel-to-reel tape system was replaced with a
     computerized digital cartridge system.
   * A plaque honoring the eight University students who died in the
     service of their country in Asian conflicts was placed behind Memorial
     Hall in November 1989.
The '90s
   * Memorial Hall is home to the dean of the College of Arts and
     Science, the English department, the University Writing Center and the
     Arts and Science Advisement Center.
                                   -Beth Thomas