COLLEGE PARK (11/23/16) — The weather might not have cooperated, but that didn’t stop some 200 guests — including news, public relations and political officials — from helping to dedicate the University of Maryland’s first modern building for the Department of Journalism and Public Relations on Nov. 23, 1957. The journey to that dedication ceremony was a long one.
A Dream Years in the Making
There had been a long-standing dream for a new building since the Department of Journalism and Public Relations was established in 1947 on the University of Maryland campus. By 1952, Alumni News editor Robert Hurst reported the university administration had finally put plans for a new building “in motion” that would include an auditorium, classrooms and offices, as well as extensive facilities for training in press photography. Even the University Press and “the activities of the Director of Publicity and Publications will also be housed in the new building.”
The following year, a committee of the Maryland Press Association recommended the construction of a new building that would include a newspaper hall of fame (the MDDC (Maryland-Delaware-DC) Press Association sponsors one today for its members).
By 1955, the plans (by architects Walton and Madden) were complete and despite some controversy about where the building would be located, construction finally got underway.
1955 Alumni News editor Bill Kennedy said Department Chair Alfred Crowell had spent much of his year working with the architects and interviewing “dealers of equipment and compiling specifications for purchase of equipment for each room in the three-story building.”
The 1956 Alumni News reported the building should be completed by February or March of 1957. Along with the $350,000 building, the state allocated an additional $40,000 for equipment, but more was needed since “earlier requests did not cover plumbing or sinks for the photography labs, nor parking facilities.”
An Informal Inspection
The New York Times sent their Philadelphia correspondent, William Weart, to College Park to cover the dedication. He reported, “Built and partly equipped at a cost of $390,000, the three-story structure stands on the southwest corner of the mall, adjacent to the $3,200,000 (what would become McKeldin) library nearing completion. Both buildings are of Georgian architectural design.”
Before the dedication ceremonies and luncheon, there was what Weart called an “informal inspection” of the facility.
What the guests saw was described a few months earlier in the May 1957 Alumni News (the building opened for classes for the spring term):
“There was a time when the journalism department was housed in the worst building on campus, but today it is a center of attraction at Maryland. … The first floor is the new home of The Diamondback and the future press room. The DBK has a large newsroom, the editor’s office looks out over the mall, and there are individual offices for sports, the business manager, and advertising-circulation. The DBK domain takes up half of the first floor. The rest is given over to the lobby, printer’s office and press room.”
The Alumni News reported there was a photography laboratory with a printing room containing 14 enlargers, a finishing room and much more. There was space for two separate darkrooms — one for The Diamondback and one for the Terrapin Yearbook and The Old Line student magazine — but there wasn’t enough money to equip them at that point.
In July 1957, the Alumni News reported the department had enrolled 85 majors in the “upper division” compared to 64 in the previous spring. Thirty-eight journalism and PR majors graduated, an increase of 10 over 1956. By July 1958, the Alumni News reported that while some labs had still not been equipped, the facilities were “top-notch” and students were seeing the use of more visual aids like 16-millimeter movies, slides, tapes and records.
The report concluded by saying, “After what we’ve come from, no writing can do this new building justice. You’ll have to see it at the dedication ceremonies next fall to see how student publications and the Department of Journalism and Public Relations have grown to be the pride of the campus.”
Dedication Ceremonies: ‘Fourth Estate in a New Home’
“The $350,000 Journalism Building became officially dedicated to democracy’s principle of freedom of the press November 23. Before a gathering of 200 guests in the Rotary Room of the dining hall, President (Wilson) Elkins welcomed the speakers for the occasion. President of the American Newspaper Publishers Association William Dwight was the main speaker at the ceremony along with Governor (Theodore) McKeldin; J. Freeman Pyle, dean of (the College of Business and Public Administration); Louis L. Goldstein, president of the Maryland State Senate; and Daniel Brewster, vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee of the Maryland House of Delegates.”
The New York Times’ Weart reported Dwight’s keynote focused on “official secrecy” by the federal government. “The right of Americans to know what their officials were doing,” Dwight said, “was being repeatedly invaded at all levels of government.”
The ceremony was recorded and thanks to University Archives, we can bring it to you here:
On to Knight Hall
By the turn of the century, it was becoming painfully clear that the original journalism building was too small and outmoded to serve a growing student population and a changing journalism industry. On April 21, 2010, John S. & James L. Knight Hall was dedicated as the new home for the Philip Merrill College of Journalism. The original journalism building on McKeldin Mall, now called Chincoteague Hall, was renovated and is being used by the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. The original “JOURNALISM” lettering from the old building was moved to Knight Hall to help serve as a bridge from the old to the new.
Watch: Announcement of the building of the new Knight Hall in 2006 with Dean Tom Kunkel, UMD President Dan Mote and Philip and Eleanor (Ellie) Merrill: