Brown Memorial Hall was the first major building constructed on the new Norfolk State College campus in 1955, when the school was moved to an old golf course along Corprew Avenue in the Brambleton section of Norfolk.
It housed classrooms, the campus library, administration and faculty offices, a theater and even a cafeteria.
Since 1955, the school has experienced an expansion of funding, student population and construction of new buildings and other facilities.
Sixty-two years later, Norfolk State, now University’s growth has consumed most of the acreage of the old golf course, with academic, athletic and support service buildings. The university’s master plan has allowed it to replace many of its buildings erected over the past four decades.
Brown Hall is one of them and on August 17-18, NSU will open the newest edition of the building, after a two year, $47 million construction effort.
Before he graduated from Norfolk State in 1988, Terry Woodhouse, a Virginia Beach native, attended a lot of classes in Brown Hall, working on a Building Construction Major.
Now he is overseeing the reopening and continued maintenance and operation of the building as NSU’s Director of Capital Planning and Improvements, a job he has held for two years. He landed the first job with his alma mater in 2004.
Woodhouse said Brown Hall, with its 154,000 square feet, is NSU’s largest building.
The old Brown Hall was 134,000 square feet. There are plans for other new academic and housing facilities, not yet funded but on the drawing board.
During the demolition of most of the old building and the reconstruction period, most class operations and faculty and staff who worked there were dispersed to other facilities on campus.
Now they are slowly returning home and eventually 13 departments will be housed in the building, when the fall semester opens later this summer.
The old building which had no air conditioning originally, was continually upgraded over the years, but age, various environmental and structural ills, including mold took their toll.
Woodhouse said the new version of Brown Hall is an example of a modern academic classroom building.
“The building has everything a modern 21st century academic building should have,” said Woodhouse. “It has new environmental systems, electronics, Wifi and it is green.”
The new Brown Hall is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, (LEED) certified. Such buildings, Woodhouse sayid, uses less water and energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reducing the cost of operating them.
The Brown Hall Theater returns, with 394 seats and will continue as the home of the NSU Theater Arts program.
Woodhouse said when alumni return to the campus during the annual Homecoming celebration, they are impressed by the new buildings and the redesign of the campus.
One of the historic fixtures of the old Brown Hall was the historic clock which adorned its front facade and served as the feature fixture of the campus.
It was located on Wing A of the building which is still standing but is being readied for demolition.
The old clock will not dominate the new building’s facade, but will sit as a piece of history in its lobby.
Once the demolition of the old Brown Hall is complete, it take its place on the north end of the newly configured Quadrangle or “Quad,” a feature on many college campuses today.
Brown Hall will sit on its north end, the new NSU Student Center and Student Services buildings (east) (once call Union Building), the Nursing Education building (south) and the library (west).
This huge stretch of green space is used for student congregation and activities.
Complimenting the quad is the 94 foot communication tower, which has digital display projecting information to students and a public address system.
The school will formally cut the ribbon on the new G.W.C. Brown Memorial Hall during a ceremony on August 18, starting at 9 am.
For more for information call (757) 823-8600.
By Leonard E. Colvin