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Student Dorm, c. 1910-1917. JMU Special Collections.

Jackson Hall was one of two completed buildings that greeted the very first students to arrive at the State Normal and Industrial School at Harrisonburg in 1909.  At the time, it was called Dormitory 1 and housed half of the students, some of the faculty (including President Burruss and his wife), and the dining hall.

The female students were allowed callers in a reception room. A spoof in the 1911 School Ma’am entitled “Domestic Science Recipes” included instructions for a “Soft Johnny Cake,” that showed not only what was on these young women’s minds, but how restricted their social lives were.  The recipe calls for “One level headed girl and one equally staid Friday evening caller. The reception room should be located in Dormitory No. 1 and provided with a comfortable settee.  Add a chair if needed: also one pound of moral courage mixed with a Y.W.C.A. talk and a pair of entrancing blue eyes.  Will be greatly improved if allowed to bake several hours in a temperate room.”

Dining Hall, 1913. JMU Special Collections.

In 1918, the building’s name was changed to Jackson Hall as part of the Lost Cause movement, which aimed to shape the history of the Civil War, casting the Confederacy in a more favorable light.  Namesakes like Jackson were presented as honorable men who fought against the oppressive Union in the name of States Rights. Honoring these figures in this manner served as a constant reminder to community members of their collective values. The same year, there was an outbreak of the flu on campus, and Jackson Hall became an impromptu infirmary.

A 1957 article in the Breeze poked fun at the crowding in the dorms, claiming that the tunnels between buildings would soon be available as student housing, with the water that accumulated during rainstorms to be used in the dining hall and that tunnel residents could be as loud as they pleased due to the noise already coming from the heating system.

In 1971, as Dr. Carrier’s transformative term as school president began, Jackson Hall underwent major renovations.  Since then, the history department has called Jackson Hall its home, though that will change when the renovations on WIlson are completed in Fall 2019.
By Jessica Corsentino

Sources:

“Domestic Science Recipes.”  Bluestone. 1911.

Dingledine, Raymond C., Jr. 1959. Madison College : The First Fifty Years, 1908-1958. Harrisonburg, Va., Madison College, 1959.

“Jackson Alleviates Crowded Problems.” The Breeze, April 1, 1957.

Korklkof, Kathy. “In the Beginning, There was Burruss.” The Breeze, May 14, 1983.