Masters Hall: 100 years, 1921-2021 – Albright College

Masters Hall: 100 years, 1921-2021

by Carey Manzolillo

Conceptual drawings printed 100 years ago in the 1920-21 college catalog promised a new Administration Building to complement Schuylkill Seminary’s Selwyn Hall, gymnasium and chapel, in the heart of what soon would become the Albright College campus.

Dedicated Sept. 15, 1921, the three-story building was renamed Harry V. Masters Hall after Albright’s longest serving president (serving 27 years 1938-1965) when the college’s library-administration building was completed in 1964. It is currently home to Albright’s English and communications, history, education and world language departments.

While the outside retains much of its original charm, the interior of Masters Hall has changed many times, following the needs of the college — and even the country.

Initially, a dormitory filled the third floor, housing male students and two fraternities: Alpha Pi Omega and Zeta Omega Epsilon. But during World War II — when records show that the third floor’s 19 dormitory rooms shared only one shower, bathroom and toilet — 35 young men training for the Army moved into the space, forcing first-year students already living there to find other housing, primarily with fraternities. Residents in other Albright buildings made similar sacrifices during the war.

As late as the 1940s, inspection reports describe two stairways that were near the center of the building (one wood, and the other made from concrete and iron). No trace of the inner stairwells remain today; outer stairwells and the elevator (added in 1989) are now the only paths to the third floor.

By 1948, resident-students permanently relocated to Albright Court and other campus locations, and the third floor of Masters was converted into office and classroom spaces.

Following the Albright/Schuylkill merger, administration offices, classrooms and the campus bookstore were located on the first floor. On Feb. 1, 1946, a mailbox in the bookstore caught fire. But according to a brief story in the Feb. 12 edition of the Albrightian (which interestingly was relegated to page three along with the calendar and local advertisements), White Chapel had caught fire three times in preceding months, leading firefighters to initially rush past the Administration Building to the chapel. In the meantime, President Masters broke down the bookstore door, so that the real flames could be extinguished — saving the building that would be named for him 18 years later.

Over time, the building’s second floor was home to classrooms, a clothing lab and the library. The library moved to Alumni Hall in 1936 and to a new administrative building in 1964.

The basement has probably seen the most change over the decades. Although it originally housed physical, chemical, biological and domestic science laboratories, many of the sciences found their way to Science Hall, built in 1929.

At the same time that students moved out of Masters’ third floor (1948) the Psychological Service Center and Albrightian office moved into the basement, and the bookstore moved to Krause Hall, which at the time was Albright’s student union building. Three years later, music studios joined the menagerie in the basement.

According to college archives, by 1954 the basement was used for home economics, as well as the Psychological Service Center and publications offices. The modern language lab moved into the building in 1958, and an assessment report in 1961 showed physics and geology classes in the basement, with the first floor housing accounting and statistics a few years after that.

With the new library and administration building completed in 1964, the newly christened Masters Hall welcomed the college’s physics and mathematics departments on the basement level.

In 1977, Albright’s evening and continuing education departments moved into Masters, but in 1981, the building was again renovated, adding a humanities common room and ensuring that every faculty and staff member in the building had their own office. Renovations in the last 20 years include an update to a small lecture hall in the basement.

While Masters Hall has served many purposes and has been home to nearly every department on campus over the years, one thing is absolutely clear: 100 years of Albright College graduates have walked its halls and learned in its classrooms.