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From the Start, a Work in Progress: The Perennially Versatile Chaminade Hall

By Brent Adams

In early  July, the University of Dayton announced that it has convened a committee to study options for the future of Chaminade Hall, a 114-year old building in the center of campus. The committee will study the feasibility of remodeling the present building or demolishing the structure and erecting a new building. Here's a look at the building's history of practicality and versatility.

One building, many purposes

In 1904, Chaminade Hall was built in response to the growing number of students at St. Mary’s Institute. It originally served primarily as a dorm for the senior class,[1] providing students with “lightsome, airy, and spacious apartments,” in addition to dining halls and study halls.[2]  For recreation, students could visit the club room in the basement, which featured pool tables and two bowling alleys. Students held annual pool tournaments and formed a bowling league during the 1921–22 academic year.[3]

Chaminade also contained the first library on campus.[4]  In 1909, Brother Thomas Mooney, S.M., led an effort to gather all of the books stored on campus and relocate them to the second floor of Chaminade Hall. This collection was freely available to the entire school community.  With gifts and intentional purchases, the library’s collection grew along with the number of patrons using it, prompting relocation to a larger room in the basement. By 1917, the library outgrew this space as well, and the collection moved to St. Mary’s Hall.

Classes in education were first held in Chaminade Hall in the early 1940s.[5]  Chaminade would remain a focal location for the Division of Education (now called the School of Education and Health Sciences) until the School’s 2014 relocation.

In April 1947, the basement club room was converted to a cafeteria, allowing students for the first time to get a hot lunch without leaving campus.[6] The cafeteria was well-received, and initially about 350 students ate lunch there each day.[7] The coffee apparently left something to be desired, though: The cafeteria manager made a point to tell University of Dayton News that the quality and temperature of the coffee would definitely improve once the new coffee pot on order was received.

This cafeteria was remodeled in late 1953, meriting front-page coverage in UD News.[8]  Ceiling-mounted speakers piped music into the dining area from a phonograph in the cafeteria office, and these same speakers could be used for public address announcements. The updated décor, featuring pink tables and yellow-green seating, was ultra-modern for the time; the reporter from UD News was particularly impressed with the cutting-edge automatic hamburger maker, which allowed the kitchen to produce 40 patties per minute. An open house provided an opportunity to share the improvements with visitors from the Miami Valley Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association.

A “Skylight Lounge,” converted from the the previous living quarters of Missionary Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, opened on the third floor of Chaminade in September 1957, providing study and relaxation spaces for female students.[9]  The Dayton Flyer noted that the study areas were particularly welcome since focused study by female students was “formerly next to impossible at times.” The lounge’s kitchen and snack room allowed an opportunity for social gatherings. In a small chapel adjacent to the lounge space, Mass continued to be offered twice a week.

As time, technology and teaching methods advanced, Chaminade Hall’s age and design constrained its capacity for the physical improvements necessary to deliver exceptional and accessible educational programs for teachers, educational leaders and health professionals. In 2014, the School of Education and Health Sciences moved into its new home on the spacious, newly renovated sixth floor of the former NCR factory building now called Fitz Hall.[10] The arcade connecting Chaminade with St. Mary’s Hall, which once served as a popular meeting place for students [11] and was later the home of the Office of Admission, was demolished a few months later as part of the renovation of the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception.[12]  During the chapel renovation, the basement of Chaminade served as a temporary chapel.

During the 2016–17 renovations to the Kennedy Union dining facilities, Chaminade’s basement became a cafeteria again, minus the ’50s décor.


The Chaminade committee will hold open forums and meetings with various campus constituencies. The committee also hopes to develop a website to solicit input from faculty, staff, students, alumni and other members of the UD community. Members of the board of trustees will be asked to share input at its fall meeting in October.

“An important consideration of the committee will be recommending a facility that will fit well in the historic center of the campus and blend well with both St. Mary’s Hall and the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception — two iconic UD structures,” said Father James Fitz, S.M., vice president for mission and rector and Chaminade committee co-chair with David Wright, director for academic technology and curriculum innovation.


[1] St. Mary’s Institute 1905 yearbook, p. 4

[2] St. Mary’s Institute 1906 yearbook, p. 26

[3] The U.D. Annual 1922, p. 93

[4] Daytonian 1928, p. 27

[5] Campus Report, 2/1/2013

[6] University of Dayton News, 4/25/1947

[7] University of Dayton News, 5/9/1947

[8] University of Dayton News, 10/30/1953

[9] Dayton Flyer, 9/12/1957

[10] Campus Report, 2/1/2013

[11] University of Dayton News, 10/17/1947

[12] Campus Report, 5/2/2014

— Brent Adams is a recent graduate of the Wright State University Public History program; he spent the 2017-18 academic year volunteering in the University Archives and Special Collections as part of his capstone project.

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