Over the years Ohio University’s Baker Student Center has always been the place for most student-centered activities. It was named after the school’s fourteenth president, John Calhoun Baker, who assumed the position in 1945.
When he became president, OU grew tremendously in reputation and size, therefore there was the need for a new student center to accommodate the growing Bobcat population to replace what they had, called the Student Union. It was located at the current site of School of Communications.
A committee headed by a psychology lecturer was set up to start the preliminary preparations for the project. In fall of 1947, student leadership initiated a campaign to facilitate the process. Petitions were circulated and about 4,000 students appended their signatures to pay an extra five dollars toward the new construction. They collected over $160,000.
State Legislature and a host of other groups donated toward the Baker dream. It was to be the school’s largest building at the time, with six floors.
By 1948, plans were advanced to put up the $1,357,795 “unique” OU center. The aim was to “give a well-rounded experience in university life.”
Bellman, Gillette and Richards of Toledo designed the building, which was an example of Georgian architecture. This was because the University wanted to “keep with the architectural scheme of buildings.”
Several buildings around the area, including O’Bleness cottages, Faculty Club, Veteran-housing units were razed to give way to the ultramodern student center, which was to have a frontage stretch of 138 feet along the East Union Street facing College Green.
After demolishing the old Baker Center (Student Union), work commenced on the new edifice. By summer of 1953, the building was ready for the celebration of the university’s sesquicentennial on February 18, 1954. It as a dream come true for both students and faculty as the school lacked a place for entertainment and recreational purposes.
This had the game room for the students. It had eight bowling lanes, 15 billiard tables, 3 table tennis tables, cards and football. It was also the location for campus lost and found.
This area housed a café called The Frontier Room. The café was opened to all university personnel up to midnight and beyond. They served snacks and meals all day and into the night, including beer.
The Frontier Room was for relaxation and a feel of the open fire.
This area was dedicated to the University Information Center, 1804 Lounge, 1954 Lounge, the University Club and a place called A Sculpture for scholarship trophies.
In the University Club, the dress code was dining room coats and ties for men and skirts for women.
This floor had offices of the Director of Baker, Auditor, Duplicating Services and secretary in charge of reservations. It also had meeting rooms, TV lounge, large ballroom and an art gallery.
Third and fourth floors:
These floors had offices for student organizations including student government, dean of student activities, International student lounge, Directors of Sorority and Fraternity Affairs and the center program board.
The New Baker Center:
In 2000, the idea for a high-tech university center was presented by the student senate partly because the old Baker was far north of campus. They wanted a building quite centered on the campus for easier access from all parts of campus.
By February 2004, the Ohio University Board of Trustees approved the 60 million dollar project. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in March of 2004. In January 2007, the current Baker Center was opened. With the same Georgian design, the facility has won awards including two Golden Trowel awards from the International Masonry Institute. In 2008 Baker University Center was awarded the grand prize with honors from Learning by Design and Best Project in Ohio for its terrazzo floor art.
Photo credit: Ohio University Archives