Harrison Hall

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Harrison Hall
Harrison Hall at sunset
General information
Architectural styleGeorgian
LocationOxford, Ohio, United States
Address349 East High Street, Oxford, OH 45056
Coordinates39°30′32.3″N 84°44′11.0″W / 39.508972°N 84.736389°W / 39.508972; -84.736389
Technical details
Floor area40,000 GSF
Design and construction
ArchitectCellarius & Hilmer
Main contractorFrank Messer & Sons

Harrison Hall is an academic building on the campus of Miami University [1] housing the Department of Political Science and the Center for Public Management and Regional Affairs.[2] It replaced an earlier building on the site built in 1818 and demolished in 1958. The original building was first named Franklin Hall, and became known as Old Main. It was officially renamed to Harrison Hall in 1931 after the 23rd President of the United States, Benjamin Harrison.[3]

Construction of "New" Harrison Hall[edit]

On April 29, 1957, the State Department of Industrial Relations condemned any further instructional use of Harrison Hall after a building inspection. As a result, Miami allocated resources to many of the academic divisions housed within Harrison Hall to other buildings on campus including Bonham House and Ogden Hall.[4] After this, plans for the new Harrison Hall began, which were decided upon on February 1, 1958 by the Board of Trustees. The Board stated that the new Harrison Hall should be devoted to classroom purposes and that it would house the departments of Sociology and Anthropology, Psychology, Government, and the Scripps Foundation.[5] Bids for the construction of the new building were received on October 17, 1958 by the State Architect’s Office in Columbus and construction began in January.[6] The cornerstone was laid on May 9, 1959 and was presided by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Hugh C. Nichols.[7] A strike that began on June 8, 1959 interrupted the construction of the building, which was later completed in 1960.[6]

The new Harrison Hall was designed to resemble the old building, and is only about 60 percent as large as Old Main, yet it actually has more space for students and for activities.[2] A memorandum by then President John D. Millett on April 3, 1959 discussed the potential distribution of rooms and offices within the new Harrison Hall, also stating which departments would be housed within the building.[8] The official dedication of Harrison Hall occurred on October 8, 1960, which occurred inside one of the three lecture rooms featured within the building. The Chairman of the Board of Trustees, E.W. Nippert, presided over the ceremony, while James H. Maloon represented the State of Ohio.[9] Harrison Hall is 40,000 square feet (3,700 m2) and cost $1,004,000 to build.[10]

History of "old" Harrison Hall[edit]

Construction for the original Harrison Hall (then known as Franklin Hall) began in 1816, shortly after the completion of the log schoolhouse in the University Square in 1811.[1] The central part of the building was completed in 1818, and various additions were made to the building afterwards. The west wing of the building was added in 1868 following the Civil War, and the east wing was built in 1898.[11]

Over the years, Franklin Hall, came to be known as Old Main by students. The first day of classes at Miami University began on November 1, 1824 in Old Main, which was the only classroom building on campus at that time.[12]

Old Main
A picture of Old Main, the first academic building on the campus of Miami University, that later housed the first two student organizations. This photograph was taken before the construction of the East Wing [13]

The first two student organizations, the Erodelphian and the Union Literary Societies, began in 1825 and met on Friday evenings on the third floor of Old Main, debating issues involving social and economic progress, including slavery and feminism.[14] Other organizations began forming as well, including fraternities. Beta Theta Pi was founded in 1839 at Miami University and was the first of the Miami Triad of fraternities to be founded there.[15]

Student and Faculty Conflict[edit]

Disputes between the administration and fraternities reached a tipping point on January 12, 1848 with the Snowball Rebellion. Numerous students, many of whom were fraternity members, rolled snowballs up to the entrance of Old Main and blocked it, which was discovered early the next morning by the janitor, who informed then President Erasmus D. MacMaster of the snowballs. President MacMaster informed the faculty and students later that day at a chapel meeting, which all students and faculty members were required to attend, that those involved in the incident with Old Main would be expelled. This ultimately backfired though, for the following night even more students broke into Old Main and packed the main floor with snow, along with chairs, tables, benches, and the entire wood fuel supply for the winter, which then froze overnight. MacMaster expelled all students involved over the next two weeks, and Miami’s enrollment fell to 68 students. However, not wanting to close the university, the Board of Trustees fired MacMaster and hired William Anderson as the next president, who allowed Phi Delta Theta fraternity to be formed in December 1848.[12]

Other History[edit]

Harrison Hall was home to not only academic tradition but also to athletic tradition. The Bell used in Battle for the Victory Bell between the University of Cincinnati and Miami University, who square off each year in football, originally hung in Old Main, which was near where the first football game was played in 1888. The Bell was rung for Miami victories and remained at Old Main until it began traveling with the winning team in the 1890s.[16] Phi Kappa Tau fraternity was founded in the Union Literary Society Hall in Old Main in 1906.

Before the construction of the new Harrison Hall, a fire occurred in December 1946. It was spotted by a group of students on Sunday, December 1 at 7:45 p.m. resulting in 150 dollars worth of damage, and destroyed one of the stained glass windows inside of Harrison Hall. Although the cause of the fire was never determined, one of the managers of the building believed that cigarette butts were the cause for the fire.[17]

"Old" Harrison Hall
A picture of "Old" Harrison Hall [18]


  1. ^ a b “Reflect on the Past: Historical Timeline.” Miami University Bicentennial. Miami University, 2009. Web. 6 Oct. 2010. [1]
  2. ^ a b “Harrison Hall [New].” Miami Alumnus. 10th ed. 1960. Print
  3. ^ “Harrison Hall.” Miami University Buildings Physical Facilities. Miami University Libraries, 20 May 2005. Web. 5 Oct. 2010. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2010-06-10. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link) CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ “Building Program.” The President’s Report to the Board of Trustees for the year ending June 30, 1957 55.18 (1957): 20-23. Print
  5. ^ “Academic Facilities.” The Report of the President of Miami University to the Board of Trustees for the year ending June 30, 1958 56.18 (1958): 20-23. Print
  6. ^ a b Miami University. “Academic Affairs.” The Report of the President of Miami University to the Board of Trustees for the year ending June 30, 1959 57.18 (1959): 16-17. Print
  7. ^ “The Cornerstone Laying of Benjamin Harrison Hall Miami University.” Miami University Program 9 May 1959: n. pag. Print
  8. ^ Millett, John D. “Assignment of Space in Harrison Hall.” Memorandum 3 Apr. 1959: n. pag. Print
  9. ^ The Miami Alumnus. “The beautiful, functional new Harrison Hall.” The Miami Alumnus Nov. 1960: 8-9. Print
  10. ^ Glos, R.E. The buildings of Miami University. N.p.: n.p., 1983. Print
  11. ^ Flintermann, Peter. “Miami University Buildings, Past and Present Being A Summary of Some Names and Dates Associated With Them.” Miami University Libraries: Miami University Building Information. Miami University Libraries, 1966. Web. 5 Oct. 2010. [2]
  12. ^ a b Miami University Alumni Association. “Dr. Shriver’s Miami History Highlights.” Miami University: Miamian Fall ‘08. Miami University, 2008. Web. 5 Oct. 2010. [3]
  13. ^ Snyder, Frank R. Old Main Building exterior from northwest ca. 1896. 1896. Photographs of Frank R. Snyder, Miami University Archives, Oxford, Ohio. Miami University Libraries-Digital Library Program. Web. 27 Oct. 2010. [4]
  14. ^ Boen, Donna. “The Evolution of Student Life.” Miamian on the Web. Miami University Alumni Association, 2008. Web. 5 Oct. 2010. [5]
  15. ^ Havighurst, Walter. The Miami years, 1809-1984. New York: Putnam, 1984. Print
  16. ^ “Traditions.” Miami University Alumni Association. Miami University Alumni Association, 2010. Web. 6 Oct. 2010. [6]
  17. ^ The Miami Student. “Unexplained Fire In Harrison Hall Results In $150 Damages.” The Miami Student 6 Dec. 1946, Vol. 72, No. 22 ed.: 1. Print
  18. ^ Butler County Historical Society. “Miami University, Oxford.” Ancestry.com. Butler County Historical Society, 2000. Web. 20 Oct. 2010. [7]