1961: Business school moves to Prince Hall

Following a post-World War II enrollment boom, classroom space was limited and applications for residential students far outnumbered available dorm rooms. As the Humanities department moved into Duncker Hall, the business school was forced to decamp to the newly renamed Prince Hall, a reincarnation of Liggett Hall.

Memo to all Business School Faculty

From: Dr. Arthur Mason Jr., Acting Dean

Subject: Dedication and open house of Prince Hall on May 5 and 7, 1961

In the evening of Friday, May 5, you, the faculty, will be host to Mr. Prince at a stag dinner in Prince Hall. The schedule of events for this affair are as follows: 5:30-6:30 p.m., refreshments at Chancellor Shepley’s house; 6:30 p.m., dinner and dedication at Prince Hall. This affair will be a small, informal one at Mr. Prince’s request.

After dinner, Mr. Prince will be given a personal tour of the building, so I hope that all of us will have our offices available for display.

Frank J. Prince was coming to the WashU campus to see a project that he helped fund. Namely, the transformation of a former dormitory into an academic building that would be called Prince Hall—the home of the business school from 1961 to 1987.

On the day Prince Hall held its open house, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that “Prince Hall…has three times the number of seminar rooms and a third more classrooms than the business school’s former headquarters, Duncker Hall. It has a machine room and statistics laboratory, and library space for 15,000 volumes.” The May 7, 1961 edition of the newspaper also reported that the remodeling of Liggett Hall from a dorm to the new home of the business school “cost about $325,000.”

Prince was a Director and former President of Universal Match Corporation, a company founded in St. Louis in 1925, and described by The New York Times as “the world’s largest manufacturer of matchbooks.”

Prince Hall unveiling

Frank J. Prince, on right, looks on as the building formerly known as Liggett Hall is renamed Prince Hall.

Ironically, the matchbook magnate’s name would replace an even more famous name—Liggett—that had graced the dormitory since its construction in 1902. Elizabeth J. Liggett, widow of St. Louis tobacco merchant and partner in the firm Liggett and Myers, was among the small group of donors Robert Brookings had assembled to fund the first buildings on WashU’s new hilltop campus west of Forest Park.

The Liggett dormitory for men was constructed to the west of the “first quadrangle,” known today as the Brookings Quad, and was located on the current site of the Danforth University Center (DUC).

Gary Hochberg, who served as dean of the undergraduate program for 25 years before developing the Specialized Masters Programs until his retirement in 2014, remembers what he called the ‘Prince Hall two-step.’  “Some of the hallways were so narrow in Prince that when two people crossed paths,” Hochberg recalls with a smile, “they had to turn sideways to pass each other. It was like doing a little dance just to get down the hall.”

A 2006 Student Life article says Vice Chancellor Emeritus Frederic Volkmann cited Prince Hall’s “troubling features such as numerous load-bearing walls, poorly constructed rooms and difficulties with making the building accessible as per the Americans with Disabilities Act” as reasons for its demolition later that year. The Danforth University Center (DUC) has replaced the historical building.

Photos courtesy of WashU Archives.

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