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West Hall: A State of the Art Student Center

West Hall  photo.jpg

West Hall's construction was completed in 1913; photo by Sarrafian Brothers, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

"West Hall [...] is an untold blessing to the whole university. The past three years have brought us many strange experiences.[...] Men and women and children have been deported to the interior. Mail communications have been slow and interrupted. Sinister rumors have filled the air, hopes deferred have made the heart sick. And wonderful has been the ministration of West Hall during all this period. It has soothed and comforted and strengthened. it has kept aglow the finest friendship. It has encouraged as never before the singing of College songs -all the old ones and many new ones. It has done great work of diversion without losing power of inspiration. Concerts, lectures, plays, bowling, skating, billiards, the piano, the phonograph- all have had their share in amusing the big SPC family, while everyone says what could we have done without West Hall?" Howard Bliss

Fifty First Annual Report, SPC, 1916-17, (August 14, 1917) 70-73, AUB Archives.







Hockey team members, 1914-15, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

Bayard Dodge, appointed Director of West Hall, outdid himself in organizing opportunities for community recreation throughout the year. Every Saturday night, a different program was arranged for the diversion, instruction or amusement of students and members of the American community. Activities scheduled during this year included an athletic rally, a band concert by sailors from a U.S warship, a lecture on archeology by Frederick Bliss, skating parties at the West Hall rink, plays, motion pictures, concerts and lectures, etc. A small fee of around half a Bishlik was charged for admission, and the proceeds were donated to charities, as well as to needy communities in Beirut and the vicinity.



Students' Play Actors, 1914-15, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

Concerts, movies, plays, athletic exhibits, declamation contests, literary programs were all organized for the amusement and entertainment of large audiences. The skating Club, as well as bowling and billiard tournaments gave rise to sustained and great interest; the well endowed and attractive library and the great Common Room provided many opportunities for education, entertainment and relief, in the midst of mounting tensions, and a precarious social and political situation beyond the walls of the campus.



Tracks team members , 1914-15, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

As Beirut and SPC convulsed through the harrowing suffering they were witnessing all around them, students carried on with their academic and extra-curricular activities, trying to preserve a sense of health, stability, brotherhood and humanity through engaging in extra-curricular activities, e.g. sports, music, art, and through organizing, to the extent possible, communal social activities.