Prior to the opening of Meredith Hall in 1965, communications-oriented courses were scattered throughout campus and “operated with the most primitive of equipment,” according to a history of the program written by Hugh Curtis, the first dean of the School of Journalism:
“That [faculty] have graduated a host of now-famous pros is proof of the thesis of minds and determination over matter. . . . Photographic darkroom equipment in New York Hall was stark, typewriters in the newsroom rickety. . . . [Famed broadcast professor] Jim Duncan had one primitive TV camera with a tripod. To simulate a second camera for studio tactics, he contrived a cheese box on an artist’s wooden tripod. He did have a P.A. rig and some LP records, but alumni of what was known as ‘the loft’ in the Business Administration building (up gosh-awful stairs) were characterized by their wind, their legs, and their creative imaginations.”
The family of Meredith Corp. founder E.T. Meredith donated money toward the construction of a building to house the new School of Journalism. The Drake president at the time, Henry Harmon, and members of the Board of Trustees searched for a preeminent architect. They sought to match the quality of the prominent mid-century architects, such as Eero and Eliel Saarinen and Harry Weese, who had designed the campus chapel, science building, residence halls, and dining hall. They commissioned Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a famed German architect living and working in Chicago. Mies’ spare aesthetic, which married industrial metal and concrete with nature through an atrium and huge windows, created a dramatic signature space in the heart of campus.
The School of Journalism and Mass Communication is currently working with architects from BNIM. We want to reimagine the iconic building to make it more environmentally friendly and better suited to the teaching and learning styles of today’s faculty and students, while honoring Mies’ original vision.
Meredith Hall, funded by donations by the Meredith Corp. and family, opened in 1965 to house the new School of Journalism.
Meredith Hall today is the most heavily used building on campus. It is the site not only of classes and student organizations, but also public lectures, movies, meetings, and community events.
Some of the journalism programs were housed in New York Hall prior to the construction of Meredith Hall.
The first-floor atrium of Meredith Hall is a signature element of the Mies van der Rohe building and an example of Mies’ emphasis on marrying human activity with the natural world. The trees planted in the atrium in the 1960s have grown so tall that a crane was required to remove one that died.
Meredith Hall was designed in the early 1960s by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Mies is considered a founding father of modern architecture and famed for his minimalist aesthetic. His building became the centerpiece of Drake’s iconic mid-century modern architecture.
Architect’s renderings of remodeling plans
Local architects BNIM have envisioned an addition to Meredith Hall that would provide a “community lab” for collaboration and experimentation among students, teachers, and professionals.