Cost: <$1 Million
The building that is now Ronan Hall was originally built as a library that would replace the inadequate library facilities located in Warriner Hall. Architectural plans were initially drawn by Roger Allen and Associates of Grand Rapids in 1951 after Allen and several College officials toured modern library facilities on campuses around the Midwest, including North Dakota State College, Colorado State College, and Kansas State Teachers College. Funding for the nearly $1 million project was approved by the state legislature in 1953. Plans called for construction of the new library north of Keeler Union (now Powers Hall) on the corners of Hopkins, S. Main, and S. Washington Streets.
Construction was underway by fall 1954. The cornerstone, which was laid in October 1954, contained materials that reflected the campus environment at the time. It held copies of the college bulletin, directory, social calendar, and yearbook, as well as a list of the library’s book selections and magazine subscriptions. The building was nearly complete by the end of the spring session in 1955, although relocation of the library would not be completed until January 1956. Local students were hired over Christmas vacation 1955 to complete the relocation. The new library was dedicated on April 27, 1956 at a ceremony attended by College officials and the architect. Ralph Ellsworth, director of the library at the University of Iowa, delivered a speech entitled, “The Significance of a Modern Library for a Modern College.”
The new library building was a major improvement over the existing facilities in Warriner Hall. The three-story, 65,000 square feet structure held over 200,000 volumes. The modern open-stack system provided students with direct access to over 90,000 volumes. In addition, there was study space for a quarter of the campus population at the time, as well as classrooms and reading rooms. In addition to the main library, the new library building also housed special collections within the Clarke Historical Library, which was dedicated on December 8, 1956. The building was renamed the Charles V. Park Library in March 1965. Park was the head of the library at Central throughout the 1940s and 1950s, and the dedication of the new library in his name came shortly after his death.
Although what was by then called the Park Library was designed to be expanded with the future growth of the university, by 1967 construction of an entirely new library was underway. The new Charles V. Park Library, located on Preston and Franklin south of the University Center, opened in 1969. The old library building, now vacated, was remodeled into classroom and office space. It also served the University in a variety of ways over the following decades. The building housed the Center for Cultural and Natural History from its inception on March 30, 1971, until it moved to Rowe Hall in 1975. At one point, the University's closed-circuit television studio was also housed in the building.
The naming of this building has a somewhat confusing history. For a decade after it was originally built, the building was known as simply “the library” or “the library building.” In 1965, it was dedicated as the Charles V. Park Library. However, when a new library was built in 1969, the new building was named the Charles V. Park Library. The original library would receive a new name within a year, however. Ronan Hall, a residence hall built in 1924, was demolished in 1970. The remodeled and repurposed building that was the old library was renamed Bertha M. Ronan Hall in 1970. Today, Ronan Hall is home to many student support services, including Academic Advising and Assistance, Career Services, English Language Institute, Enrollment and Student Services, International Affairs, Residence Life, Student Affairs, and Study Abroad.
The hall was named for Bertha M. Ronan (pictured above), who was a professor in the Department of Physical Education from 1903-1923 and Dean of Women from 1923 until her retirement in 1942.