By Bill Ragsdale ’62
Let’s take a tour of the reconstructed Bowles Hall just as it will be when you attend the Grand Re-Opening on Saturday, August 27. We’ll start at the back Kitchen entrance and turn to the left to the elevator.
Remember the 88 year old, vintage 1928 elevator with the telescoping grill door? It has been replaced with an expanded, ADA compliant 2016 model. It silently whisks us to the Jim Griggs, ‘56 Seventh Floor and we exit with my first Room 704 on the left. Except with the room expansion it is now Room 715, completed through a gift from George R. Durand, ’51 and Mitzi (his guide dog at Bowles Hall).
This is the first big change of many you’ll notice. Gone are the three room, four man suites. All residents are in either a one or two person room with connected bathroom. Hey, that’s another big change. We no longer have to walk down the hall one way for showers and another way for toilets. Welcome to the 21st Century. Of course all rooms have sparkling new furniture, WiFi, Ethernet and AC!
Next door is Room 716 Another advance; it is a single. Originally there were only two singles for residents. Now we have 40 singles along with 73 doubles. Across the hall is old Room 703, with its sun deck overlooking the Greek Theater; still there but it has become a student lounge, a gift from Ken Snow, ‘62.
Up To The Attic
Halfway down the hall we turn to the left, up the stairs to the Attic and Tower. Decades of graffiti have been preserved in the Attic and photographed for our archives. Among others, we see memories of Dave Benson ’60, Mark Pelzner ’67, along with “Jesus Saves, Moses Invests” and the no longer PC “Wop Pride.” The Tower now has limited access only for the flagpole.
Now we return to the Seventh Floor and pass down the central stairway to the Sixth Floor. It and the Fifth Floor mirror the Seventh Floor but with more rooms on the north and south wings. Then we suddenly realize all hallways are carpeted. No more rolling Coke bottles on cement to torment your neighbors.
On The Main Fourth Floor
When the staircase ends at the Fourth Floor we see the original entry-way paneling is still in place with the bronze Dedication Plaque by the Dining Commons. When we duck into the Hart Library, the Audubon print still graces the fireplace and the Great Table (with the pineapple legs) anchors the room.
After almost twenty years with no meal service we see the Dining Commons has been restored from the support of Judi and Robert Newman, ‘65, with its original (but rebuilt) wrought iron light fixtures. The Olympic Oars from 1949 are still in place. We’ll skip the kitchen but it has an added wing and all new fixtures.
Looking out the windows to the East you see the fully rebuilt Patio from the support of Boots and Paul Larson, ‘52. A huge buttress, extending below ground, was added for seismic stability to the Hall’s east wall.
Into The Lounge
Across the entryway, a gift of Whitney and Scott Wilson, ’85 we enter the fully redecorated Lounge in memory of David E. Matteson II, we still find Phillip Bowles’ portrait on the south wall, over the fireplace, and Mary Bowles’ portrait on the north wall. Both have been through a conservation process. New sofas here are highlighted by a baby grand piano. The room restoration and piano are gifts of the Matteson family.
Back at the massive front door, security comes to mind. All perimeter doors are controlled by the standard student campus card but with a code unique to Bowles Hall. Public areas are monitored by security cameras connected directly the UC Police.
Out that main door, to the left and up the stairs we pass the Room 421 where the first Head Resident, Scott Wilson, lived from 1929 to 1940. Yes, he is our Director Scott Wilson Jr.’s father. Head Resident Rose Gilmore occupied this suite in the late 1940s and 1950s. This was the only student room in the “old” Hall with a private bathroom. Tom Shelton and I had this three room suite in 1962.
The Hall Principal’s Suite
Down the stairs you see the original Game Room which now houses study carrels but we go up to Room 527. Here we see a four-room suite for the Hall Principal Prof. and Mrs. Daniel Melia, part of which was made possible by a gift from Gary Davis, ‘63. Fitting this apartment within the confines of the sloped roof was an architect’s challenge.
We’re almost done. You’ll have to skip some of the several study rooms, a couple of TV lounges, three laundries and several high volume printer rooms. How did we ever get along without these? Oh, wait. We didn’t have computers; we used slide rules. At the North Wing we pass the entry to the new Larry Peirano, ‘51 Game Room located above the kitchen expansion.
We continue down to the North Wing Floors Three and Two. This will be the quietest area as these short floors have only a handful of rooms. Way down on the First Floor we find the Room 101. This was home to Head Resident Margaret Beynan in the late 1950s through early 1970s. Room 101 was the first suite completely rebuilt, serving in January as a walk-though example for prospective residents.
Winding Up Your Tour
Your tour has ended at the base of the outdoor Grand Stairway up to Bowles Hall. Recalling your first day at Cal you may remember walking up to the most distinctive building on campus. After 88 years its service it has been restored through ten years of effort by the Bowles Hall Alumni Association, its friends, countless volunteers and donors. The restored Bowles Hall Residential College re-embarks on “Education Through Fellowship.”
Be sure to join us to experience your own personal tour of the Hall, the Dedication Ceremony, Reception and Dinner on Saturday, August 27.