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Eastern Michigan University
Ypsilanti, MI, USA 48197
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Historic Tour > Virtual Tour > Roosevelt Hall

Roosevelt Hall

Roosevelt Hall

Roosevelt Hall

Historic Name(s): Roosevelt School (1924-73)

Date constructed: Built 1924.
Opened October 19, 1925

Architect: Smith, Hinchman, and Grylls of Detroit, MI

Style of Architecture: Colonial Revival with Neoclassical details

Original Use: Laboratory school for Normal School teachers and provided private education for local residents.

Dates of renovation: 1973 remodeled and expanded for EMU classroom space.

Current Use: Classrooms, Gerontology, Department of Human, Environmental, and Consumer Resources, and Department of Military Science.

History: “Don’t go up the secret stairway, ‘cause if the seniors catch you, they’ll make you scrub it with a toothbrush!” whispered Roosevelt School underclassmen. A tiny staircase ran through the center of Roosevelt school. It accommodated only one person at time and, because it was a convenient short cut, it was reserved for “seniors only.” At its opening in 1925, Roosevelt High School, the new laboratory school, housed grades 7-12 so there were lots of underclassmen to be warned.

The Normal College had opened its first laboratory classes for upper grades in 1900. That year the Normal High School Program started, with classes for 9th grade only. Student teachers taught in the South wing of the main college building. By the 1920s the high school laboratory program was over-crowded and the school began looking for other alternatives. In 1923, the state purchased the Owen property, at what was then the southeast end of campus, for the site of the new high school building. The following year, the state appropriated $708,421 for opening of Roosevelt High School.

The school was named after President Teddy Roosevelt. When the school opened in 1925 it provided instruction for grades 7-12. High school education was becoming ever more common in the United States. Speaking a conference culminating in the dedication of Roosevelt High School, Dr. Charles Judd stated that, “1890 one out of ten American young people were in high school. By 1926 there are one out of three boys and girls in secondary schools.” The enrollment in the laboratory school rose dramatically to 400 students by 1930. That year, elementary grades were included in the school. In 1930, name changed to Roosevelt School.

When it opened, Roosevelt school was exceptionally well designed. Like nearby Pease Auditorium, architects designed the exterior of brick and terra cotta but they used a modified Georgian Revival idiom. Two wings, one running north on College Place and the other running west on Forest Ave, met at the distinctive central cupola and classically styled portico.

Roosevelt Hall's Library Roosevelt Hall's Library

Roosevelt Hall's Library (1928)

Inside, the building contained all the amenities of a modern high school. The north wing contained the high school offices, clinic rooms and a library. The first floor of the west wing housed a 430-seat auditorium that included a stage, orchestra pit, projection booth, and restrooms. The ground floor had a swimming pool, shower room, locker rooms, cafeteria, and labs for home economics and natural and physical science departments were located on the ground floor. Upstairs on the second floor, the Junior High School had classrooms, while the Senior High School had classrooms on the third floor.

The library, located in the north wing, opened in 1926. It housed 2,000 volumes and could seat approximately 85 students. The room was furnished with oak tables with “battleship linoleum writing surfaces.” The upper parts of the walls were painted white while the lower walls were of greenish-brown stained woodwork.

Roosevelt did not have an easy time remaining open. It was first threatened with closure in 1929, but it weathered the threat and continued to grow for the next two decades. During the 1950s, however, education trends began to shift away from university maintained laboratory schools. The first of these to close shut its doors in 1955, and in 1961, Roosevelt was again threatened with closure. Again, it survived, but time was running out. In 1966, the Educational Appropriation Act (Public Act 285) passed the state congress. It required that Roosevelt School be completely phased out by June 1969. Roosevelt School’s career had come to an end and so had the tradition of a university laboratory school, begun in 1853 with cramped classrooms in the Old Main building.

One student, saddened by the close of the school published this eulogy in the Rough Rider, Roosevelt School student newspaper:

“Since it must go
Let it go out in a style
Typical of Roosevelt…
With dignity…
The school is dead
Long live the school.”

In 1973 Roosevelt was remodeled and expanded to be used as EMU classroom space. A $2.1 million dollar appropriation made it possible to update Roosevelt for the Home Economics and Military Science Departments. Three-quarters of the space was granted to Home Economics allowing it an opportunity for more extensive research and consulting. The military facilities included a gun range in the basement that could accommodate 20 people at a time. A minor in military science was available from the school.

Today the building still houses the Military Science Department but also house the Department of Human, Environmental, and Consumer Resources.

Location - Roosevelt Hall


Location of Roosevelt Hall (Click on the image for a bigger view)