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Bertha Ronan Residence Hall


exterior postcard.jpg

Opened: June 28, 1924
Demolished: August 1970
Cost: $280,000
Capacity: 150

Ronan Hall was the first residence structure at Central Michigan Normal. In addition, it was the first residence hall at a teachers' college in Michigan that was built with funds appropriated by the State legislature. It was located on the southeast corner of Franklin and Bellows before being demolished in 1970. A plaque can be found near Sloan Hall commemorating the building.

The groundbreaking occurred on October 25, 1922 for a hall that was to be completed by September 1, 1923. Samuel B. Butterworth of Lansing was the architect and the contractor was the Probts, Ford, and Westell Company of Detroit. The craftsmanship of the marble entrance was done by the Christia Batchelder Marble Company. Over 5,700 feet of mahogany was used to frame the windows and doors of this modern building. In addition to being the first residence hall on campus, Ronan had Central's first elevator.

Problems with the foundation delayed the hall's opening by nine months. In August of 1923, one month before the hall was to open, the foundation cracked dangerously. The source of this damage was likely due to poor concrete used in construction and the fact that it was poured when the temperature was below freezing, which did not allow it to cure properly. Rumors of vandalism were rampant, but these were never proven. The damage was quickly repaired with steel rods added to reinforce the original foundation. To reassure students that the building was sound, the contractors undertook dramatic weight tests, showing that the hall's floors could withstand several times the necessary weight.

After the Old Main fire of 1925, the dormitory's recreation room served as a temporary library and the home economics department was housed in the basement. The building's dining hall accommodated 184 people and was used until a new food commons that served the nearby dorms (Ronan, Barnard, and Sloan) opened in 1948. Room rates for the 170-or-so residents ranged from $2 to $4 in the early years of the hall. Although it was not actually named until March of 1939 due to State Board of Education rules prohibiting naming a building for someone currently employed by the institution, the hall was commonly referred to as Ronan Hall from the beginning.

Bertha M. RonanBuilt as a women's dormitory (there was no men's dorm on campus until Keeler Hall in 1939), the building housed men for the first time in July 1943, when the Navy's V5 program took over the hall for use as a dormitory and training center for new recruits. They stayed for the duration of World War II, turning the hall back over to women in 1945. It again became a men's dorm from 1948 to 1954.

By that time, though, the building was showing its age. Although the residents affectionately referred to it as "Old Bertha," they often complained to the housing authorities about various issues that were not being repaired. In 1966, the Student Senate investigated these allegations and Housing Director Lee Polley blamed the students for most of the damage. Regardless of who was at fault, the contractors hired to look at the building determined that it could not withstand a major renovation due to its structural problems. As a result, the building was razed in August of 1970.

Unlike many public buildings, Ronan did not have a cornerstone (at least, none was found in the rubble). The women of Ronan moved as a group to the newly built Carey Hall in the Towers complex, which was coed by floor.

The hall was named for Bertha M. Ronan, who was a professor in the Department of Physical Education from 1903-1923, and Dean of Women from 1923 until her retirement in 1942. She was given the honor of turning the first shovel of dirt at the groundbreaking ceremony in 1922 and expressed to the assemblage her hope that the new hall would provide the happiness and inspiration that is found in the atmosphere of a cultured and refined home. She also hoped that it would be a source of pride to alumni and to those friends of Central Normal who had always been solicitous of its welfare.