Berkeley Landmark #120
Bowles Hall as seen from the southern, front side.
|Architect||George W. Kelham|
|NRHP Reference #||89000195|
|Added to NRHP||March 16, 1989|
|Designated BERKL||October 17, 1988|
Bowles Hall is an all-male residence dormitory at the University of California, Berkeley, known for its unique traditions, parties, and camaraderie. Designed by George W. Kelham, the dormitory was the first residence hall on campus, dedicated in 1929, and was California's first state-owned dormitory. It was built in 1928 on a $350,000 grant by Mary McNear Bowles in memory of her husband, Cal alumnus and UC Regent Phillip E. Bowles. Mr. Bowles was said to have three loves: horses, horticulture and the University of California. The Bowles family is said to have lost its fortune during the Depression.
The Hall displays appearance of a medieval castle, with a stone exterior and a wood entryway. Although a University-operated residence hall, its male-only tradition, classic facade, partitioned four-man rooms, and community facilities give it a social fraternity atmosphere. Bowlesmen have traditionally been a tight-knit group of students who regularly practice various traditions and rituals that are exclusive to the Hall. In the 1980s, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, an example of the style of architecture called 'Collegiate Gothic'. Until 2015 the building continued as an all-men's residence, although some traditions have not survived. Since 2006 a Hall alumni group has been working toward reinstituting the Hall as a true Residential College in restored Hall for co-ed residents. The reopening is scheduled for the Fall of 2016.
Designed by George W. Kelham, the building has eight levels comprising two-room suites and a common room (originally designed to house two, but now housing four). The Julien and Helen Hart Memorial Library was added to the building in 1939 through the gift of Professor James D. Hart, their son, and Mrs. Joseph Bransten, their daughter. Dr. Hart was a professor of English and the editor of the Oxford Handbook of American Literature. After retirement, he ran the Bancroft Library. Bowles Hall also has the distinction of sitting right on top of the Hayward Fault.
In order to avoid having the aging residence hall dismantled in the late 1980s, the Bowlesmen successfully petitioned to have the building added to the National Register of Historic Places (#89000195, 1989), thereby saving it for future generations.
Bowles Hall drinking song
Traditionally the Cal Band parades from nearby Memorial Stadium through the campus and streets of Berkeley after a home football game. The band will play in front of Bowles Hall during their tour, playing "By" for the Bowlesmen. The tradition of playing "By" for Bowles Hall is said to have begun back when the entire football team lived there. The band would play for the players as they walked back to their dorm after the game. However, when the football team was relocated, the band decided not to play in front of Bowles Hall. Subsequently, some of the men of Bowles lay down in the road, blocking the Cal Band from playing, until the band was forced to oblige them. Thus, the tradition of the Cal Band playing for the men of Bowles after a home football game has persisted to this day.
We're the men of Bowles Association,
Coming here from over all the nation.
Drinking here together one and all,
We lift our voices loud for Bowles Hall!
Here's to Bowles Association.
Drink it down and then,
Drink a toast to home sweet home,
Of California men. Rah! Rah! Rah!
Fill your glasses to the brim,
And lift them in the air.
And drink a toast to Bowles Association,
And the Golden Bear.
Men of Bowles are gathered here together,
Toasting everything from girls to weather.
But the very greatest toast of all,
Is the one that we now give to Bowles Hall!
--Joseph Ehrman III, 1948
The UC administration attempted to dismantle Bowles Hall and build a new residence hall in its place, but this was deterred when Bowles Hall was entered into the National Register of Historic Places. In April 2001, food service in the dining hall was ended and the dining room made into a generic "recreation room." The dining hall had previously hosted popular barbecue dinners on Friday evenings.
In the fall of 2006, the Haas School of Business was planning to turn Bowles into an educational center and conference facility, but the university backed down from that decision. At about this time, a group of Bowles alumni formed the Bowles Hall Alumni Association, and then the Bowles Hall Foundation, with the aim of establishing Bowles Hall as a modern residential college.
In the spring of 2014, the Regents of the University of California approved a plan that enables the Bowles Hall Foundation, a 501c(3) entity, to renovate and operate Bowles Hall as a residential college under a 45 year lease. The 2014-15 academic year was the last year that Bowles Hall operates under the jurisdiction of the UC Housing Office. The Hall closed in May, 2015, and extensive renovations began, with a scheduled completion date of July, 2016.
The mission and vision of the Bowles Hall Foundation is to re-establish the Bowles Hall experience in a restored Bowles Hall—breathing life back into a noble dream of a robust residential experience for undergraduate students at UC Berkeley and restoring key aspects of the residential college model and the rich heritage of Bowles Hall, including:
- A self-governed, co-ed residential college academic community of UCB undergraduate and graduate students, emeritus and active faculty, Bowles Hall alumni, BHRC Fellows (selected UCB faculty members) and invited members of the Bay Area community
- Academic support, career counseling and professional direction to enable BHRC student members to achieve their maximum academic potential in an environment conducive to high personal performance
- A focus on achieving a higher four-year graduation rate than the campus at large, thereby reducing student expenses and loans and increasing the throughput of the University while preparing the student to excel in advanced professional education and careers
- On-site dining (the center of the community)
- Financially self-funding, requiring no funds from the University or taxpayers and demonstrating the potential of a lower-cost, higher-function, self-funding collegiate housing model, with an endowment fund that will support the future people, programs and equipment/maintenance needs of the Hall
Working with a cadre of talented alumni, faculty and student volunteers and selected experienced consultants, we have developed a feasible, self-sustaining plan to completely renovate and refurnish Bowles Hall, with features desired by today’s students, and re-establish the Bowles Hall Residential College experience.
In June, 2015 the formal agreements with the Regents of the University of California were executed. The Bowles Hall Foundation then assumed management of the Hall for the next 45 years. A 14 month construction plan was begun starting with the removal of the interior walls and fixtures on the residential floors. These areas will be completely reconstructed into one and two person suites with a reopening in August, 2016. The Dining Commons will be restored for meal service.
In the interim, the Foundation is operating the Phoenix Project of 45 male and female students who will form the core of the first Hall residents upon the 2016 reopening. The Phoenix Project is located north of campus in The Berk residential facility.
- Norman Mineta - United States Secretary of Transportation (2001–2006)
- Les Richter - Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker for the Los Angeles Rams
- John Tuggle - Former professional player (New York Giants 1983)
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- David Cudaback, Astronomer (1929–2006)
- Mathias Craig, founder of blueEnergy
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bowles Hall.|
- Bowles Hall Web Site
- Bowles Hall Alumni Association and Bowles Hall Foundation
- Bowles Hall Drinking Song
- Castle With a Thousand Tales
- National Register of Historic Places, Alameda County
- Berkeley Landmarks
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