Bowles Hall is a coed residential college at the University of California, Berkeley, known for its unique traditions, parties, and camaraderie. Designed by George W. Kelham, the building was the first residence hall on campus, dedicated in 1929, and was California's first state-owned residence hall. 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 Great Depression.
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|
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 gave 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'.
From 2006 to 2014, a group of Hall alumni, led by Robert A. Sayles (Cal class of '52), worked with University officials to create a plan whereby the Hall would be comprehensively restored and reconstituted as a co-ed Residential College via public-private financing. Following a 14-month restoration project, the Hall reopened in August 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.
The hall earned LEED Silver certification in August 2017.
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 Spring 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. Working with a cadre of talented alumni, faculty and student volunteers and selected experienced consultants, the Foundation 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, 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. The 14-month restoration project included a comprehensive overhaul to resident suites, reconstructing them from triples and quads into single- and double-room suites, each with a connected bathroom. The project also restored all common areas, including the Dining Commons that accommodates an extensive in-residence meal service.
The restored Hall reopened in August 2016. It serves 188 undergraduate students, three live-in faculty members, and several graduate residents. It is considered on-campus housing for the purposes of financial aid.
Bowles Hall drinking songEdit
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 residence hall 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
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