By Barbara Floyd, university archivist and director, Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections
The Dowd-Nash-White dormitories, built in 1953 as a part of The University of Toledo’s response to the post-World War II enrollment boom, are in the process of being demolished.
The dormitories, named for three of UT’s presidents—John Dowd (1925-1926), Philip Nash (1933-1947), and Wilbur White (1948-1950), were dedicated on January 18, 1953, as housing for male students. At the time, UT was still a municipal university, supported by the taxpayers of Toledo. Building a men’s dormitory was a decision that had been studied for several years by a committee of faculty and members of the Board of Directors.
Because UT was a commuter university at the time, many wondered whether a new dormitory was necessary. The only other dormitory in existence on the campus was MacKinnon Hall, a women’s dorm. It had been built in the 1930’s with funding from the federal government’s New Deal program. MacKinnon was deemed necessary because it provided a safe place for female students to live away from home while under the protection of the university.
When Dowd-Nash-White was approved by the directors in 1951, it too was marketed as a safe place. Male students could live away from home and still have some level of adult control and accountability, providing comfort to parents. With the influx of male students attending on the GI Bill, the dormitory was seen as a way to attracting these students who lived too far away from campus to commute.
At the time of approval, the Board of Directors also made it clear that the dormitories would be made available to the military in case of a national emergency, just as other buildings on campus had been made available during World War II. During the war, because no such dorms existed, students who were training with the 27th Civilian Air Corps had to live in Field House. The new dormitories for men showed that the university was concerned with Cold War issues of national security, and prepared.
In addition to housing up to 427 men, the dormitories also included the university’s infirmary that provided medical care for all UT students, located in the basement of White Hall, and a large cafeteria. When the buildings opened, each room contained a built-in closet, one large desk, bunk beds, bookshelves, and a study light.
In 1953, Dowd-Nash-White rooms rented for $95 per semester. The money raised by room fees was used to pay off the $1.23 million in bonds the university sold to pay for construction.
While over the years the architectural style of the buildings has been frequently criticized, at the time they were built they earned the compliments of Blake-More Godwin, director of the Toledo Museum of Art. He congratulated the university for tying the red brick buildings into the rest of the campus.
Rules issued to the first class of students staying in the dormitories included a restriction on women in any areas except the lobby. The use of indecent language was also prohibited. But this did not stop one of the most unusual events in the dorms’ history from occurring when 10-12 women, described in the newspaper as “bobbysoxers,” stormed the buildings in February 1953 in what was called as a “reverse panty raid.”
“Halfway down the first floor corridor, seconds after they entered, the girls rushed out the side door to be met by campus police and chased from the university grounds,” the newspaper story stated. University officials angrily denied the description of the event, stating the incident was exaggerated by some of the residents in the buildings.
Dowd-Nash-White saw its share of changes throughout its history. In 1964, with an overflow of female students requesting on-campus housing, Dowd Hall was converted to a women’s dorm. In 1971, after the completion of the 16-floor Parks Tower, there were not enough students requesting to live in White Hall, and it was converted into university offices for the Mathematics and Economics departments. In the late 1970s, Dowd Hall was changed to a graduate dorm.
Women who lived on the first floor of Dowd Hall in 1980 filed a complaint with Residence Life regarding safety in the building. Residents reported being harassed by patrons leaving the Brass Bell bar, which was located next door to the dorm. In 1986, a fire in White Hall caused by a roofing contractor caused $25,000 in damages. Students were required in 2005 to relocate to other dorms when there were insufficient numbers to fill the buildings. At that time, the cost of living in the complex had risen to $3,888 a year.
Dowd-Nash-White will live on in name, however. The University of Toledo’s Board of Trustees recently approved changing the name of The Crossings – a new dormitory on the southwest side of campus – to Presidents Hall and naming the four main halls within the building Dowd Hall, Nash Hall, White Hall, and Johnson Hall. The latter is in honor of Daniel M. Johnson, who served as UT’s 15th president (2001-2006).
University Archives is seeking recollections of alumni who lived in Dowd-Nash-White, as well as any photographs that may help document the buildings’ history. Contributing these thoughts and images to the archives is one way to insure that the memories of these buildings will live on long after the structures are gone. If you have thoughts and photographs you would like to share with others, please email these to ToledoAlumni@UToledo.edu, post them to Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/toledoalumni, or contact Barbara Floyd, university archivist, at 419-530-2170.
Take a tour of Dowd-Nash-White circa 2010: