Curtis Hall & Megis Hall Torn Down
By: Jasmine Hall
Two of the oldest dorms on campus are coming down this fall at Bethune-Cookman University.
B-CU officials announced plans recently to knock down Meigs and Curtis residence halls. Both dorms were used for many years to house coeds. Officials say they have not decided what will replace the buildings, located near the heart of campus.
Meigs Hall was built in 1957 and it was named in of honor of Louise Meigs, the wife of Ferris J. Meigs. She was a member of the university's Women Advisory Board and also the Board of Trustees. It housed 200 female students.
Curtis Hall was named after Flora B. Curtis and was built in 1922. Curtis was a local resident and would often buy peas and carrots from the garden located across from Faith Hall, according to Girvan Calder, executive director of facilities, planning, technology and integration management.
"Curtis was very impressed with Miss Bethune's preciseness in record keeping," Calder said in a recent interview. So much so, he said, that the wealthy benefactor, who wintered in Daytona Beach, joined the Women Advisory Board and left $80,000 for the school in her will when she died in 1920. Curtis Hall is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Still, Calder said, officials have to knock it down because it would be cost-prohibited to keep it standing. Officials plan to place a marker on the spot once the building is gone, he said.
The demolition will take place during the school year as soon as the necessary paperwork is complete, according to Calder. It could take three weeks each for both buildings, he said, for a total of six weeks to do the job. Both buildings have been fenced off.
Calder said, "We have to go through a lot of checks to be sure that we succeed. For example, part of our campus (fiber optics) networks goes through Meigs. … We have to be careful before we go knocking down Meigs."
In a May 2016 story in the Daytona Beach News-Journal newspaper, college administrators spoke of plans to build a student center on campus at the site occupied by the two dorms.
The article was accompanied by proposed renderings of the center. It quoted then-president Dr. Edison O. Jackson as saying, "Students won't have to go off campus to enjoy themselves and (will) experience college life the way that many students do on other campuses."
Plans then called for a four-story, 110,000-square-foot building, consisting of a two-story section containing student services, food services, wellness facilities, and common areas. It also was to feature a two-story student housing element that contains an elevated, exterior quad area. The ground plane will have an outdoor amphitheater and dining spaces, and multiple outdoor lounges and multipurpose areas.
The center, which Jackson said has been in discussion since before his tenure, is a "long overdue" campus priority. However, no timetable was given for completion of the project.
Calder, who joined B-CU in January this year, said he was not familiar with the newspaper story. He also noted that the college has a different administration and it is up to them to decide what to put on the site.
Dr. Deborah Henson-Govenor, a professor of religion on campus, lived in Meigs when she was a freshman here years ago.
"Fifty (50) years ago I began my journey at the great Bethune-Cookman College now University," Henson-Govenor said. "It was a football player named Sam Anderson from Pompano Beach, who greeted me at the airport and said he was receiving community service as he delivered my footlocker to the Megs Hall dorm. The lobby was decorated and refreshments were made available as the dorm mom, Mrs. Henrietta Banks, greeted me and made me feel right at home as I arrived from Baltimore. Megs Hall was an all-girls dorm and the upperclassmen greeted you and led you to your room."
She said several things stood out. "My first culture shock and to my amazement, three of us were assigned to the room. I was the second of my two roommates to arrive and was able to have closet and drawer space. I couldn't believe there was no air-conditioning at that time either," she recalled.
She added that she spent her first night with the windows open. "I remember smelling the Krispy Kreme donuts being made," she said.
Cynthia Gray, another alumna and area resident, said she hopes officials will build more campus housing on the land once the old dorms are torn down.