Cost: $1.44 Million
Merrill Hall was the first residence hall built in a quadrangle on what was then the southern extreme of campus. Merrill, along with Beddow, Thorpe, and Sweeney Halls, was located south of Washington Court and far from any classroom or other campus buildings. There were no sidewalks, streetlights, or public transportation when the first inhabitants moved in. It would be the construction of these four buildings, the southeast quad, and the Towers complex that relocated the center of campus living southward by the 1970s. Indeed, because it was the first residence hall to open on this end of campus, it was difficult to convince to students to sign up for residency there because the nearest academic building was Warriner Hall.
Merrill Hall was designed by architects from Roger Allen and Associates in Grand Rapids. The $1.44 million building was designed to house 288 students. The building opened in the fall of 1960 as a new men's hall, although it was not officially dedicated for another year. On November 5, 1961, Merrill was dedicated in a joint ceremony celebrating both Merrill and Sweeney Halls.
The building was dedicated in honor of the Head of the Department of Physics and Chemistry from 1921 to 1953. Ernest J. Merrill was born in 1889 in Grand Blanc, Michigan, the son of a farmer and a teacher. He graduated from Flint High School and Albion College, and taught at Otsego and St. Joseph. He volunteered for service in World War I, but was rejected. He worked as a chemist for the Republic Truck Company of Alma before joining Central's faculty in 1921. In addition to his teaching, he was the advisor for the College YMCA. During his time at Central, he received his Master of Arts from the University of Michigan and his Ph.D. from the same institution in 1929. He and his wife, Pearl, had one daughter and one son. Merrill retired in 1953 and died in 1958.