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Meredith Hall reopens after year-long renovations

Meredith Hall holds students and staff from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the College of Arts and Sciences and the John D Bright College. Students in these colleges can now enjoy new classrooms, HVAC system, and stronger wireless internet than before. Photo by Meghan Holloran.

Classes began this week in Meredith Hall after the building spent a year closed for renovations. 

The building, which houses the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, first opened in 1965 and is a prominent work of German American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. It also holds classes and faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences and the John D. Bright College.

In recent years, Meredith’s age had been showing, and its old heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system was causing uncomfortably high temperatures in the building during winter.

According to a Drake University press release, the remodel — done in collaboration with the State Historical Preservation Office —  kept the building’s look and feel identical but updated the HVAC and electrical systems along with making improvements to the courtyard and updating technology in classrooms and offices.

“Our ultimate goal of updating this historic facility was to create learning spaces that meet the needs of today’s students while retaining the building’s key historic features,” said Michelle Huggins, planning and design manager, in the press release.

Faculty who had been working out of a satellite building at the east end of campus for the past year were able to move into their old offices last month.

SJMC Professor Sandy Henry was excited to see her favorite parts of Meredith had remained the same.

“It looks like nothing has changed, but it’s actually kind of magic,” Henry said. “The seats in room 101 and 106 ­— they don’t make that loud, creaky banging noise anymore.”

The most noticeable update is to the exterior, which received a new coat of black paint and solar panels on the building’s roof. 

The building also gained a new film editing room with vintage seats furnished from the Varsity Cinema on 25th Street and a new Wi-Fi network with double the strength of the previous system. 

The SJMC will now be reunited after classes were scattered throughout buildings around campus, which made it difficult for SJMC students to connect.

“What sucked the most was just not being in the middle of campus,” Henry said. “Now that we’re back here, and it’s like all of the activities around us and you step out the door and it’s like students and people everywhere, you realize just how far off campus you were.”

One improvement students will notice this fall is new seats in Meredith’s auditorium, which have replaced the notoriously uncomfortable and creaky wooden seats. 

To maintain the original design and aesthetics of the seats, Drake worked with the original manufacturer, Carroll Seating Company. Drake decided to preserve the original seat backs and bases.

“The same person who designed the seats in 1965 worked to help renovate those same seats now,” the press release said.

The total cost of the renovations was $12,540,806 and was funded in part through Drake’s “The Ones” campaign. “The Ones” campaign will also fund the renovation of Morehouse Hall, which begins this year.

To see a comprehensive list of the improvements and their costs, visit the Meredith Hall Restoration  webpage.


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