Originally built as women-only dorms, the removal of the three south-campus buildings signals the, ‘End of an era.’
By Jeff Hunter ’96
When driving past the south side of the Utah State University campus with her family in the car, Michelle Hoggan routinely pointed out the location of her first-ever apartment in Logan to her three children.
A native of Vernal, the former Michelle Kinsey enrolled at USU in the fall of 1987 and promptly settled into a six-person living space in Ella V. Reeder Hall with her twin sister, Shana, her aunt, Annette Muir, and three other young women. Located just off 400 North/U.S. Hwy. 89, Reeder overlooked the Island neighborhood of Logan, as well as the mouth of Logan Canyon and the Bear River Mountains.
“We thought the view was beautiful, especially coming from Vernal where it’s really the dry desert of Utah,” Hoggan says. “It was so close to the mountains and having that view of the canyon was just gorgeous. And you could look over and see the Island and the temple, and the mountains and all the trees. We thought it was the most beautiful place ever.”
Hoggan recalls her and Annette hosting a “romantic lasagna dinner” on the roof of Reeder Hall for a couple of young men, that came to abrupt end due to some heavy wind blowing out of Logan Canyon. She also remembers dances, talent shows, Halloween parties, slamming her thumb in a door just before leaving for Thanksgiving — “Those doors were so heavy” — and occasionally cranking up the oven and leaving the door open to warm up.
“I thought it was just a really soft and easy landing for me coming out of living with my parents,” Hoggan notes. “There were times I got homesick early on, but I think it was probably the very best situation for me being away from home for the first time. There was always something fun to look forward to.”
Now a resident of Smithfield, Hoggan and her husband, Steve, still regularly visit the USU campus to walk the grounds. And even though she knew it was coming, she was still stunned in early August to discover large pieces of Reeder Hall had been torn away as part of a demolition effort last summer that also included Reeder’s nearby sister residence halls, Ethylyn O. Greaves and Johanna Moen.
“I remember the university putting something on Facebook about Reeder being demolished, but it just never seemed to come down,” Hoggan says. “Then one day it looked like a bomb had gone off. I just couldn’t believe it as I peeked through the fence.
“It was kind of a building that I thought would never die.”
Following the removal of the trio of three-story residence halls, which were built in 1955 and served as women-only dormitories until the early 1990s, the campus space will be utilized for three new structures.
Prior to being torn down, Moen Hall was the westernmost building of the three and was separated from Jon M. Huntsman Hall by just a sidewalk. Its former footprint will eventually accommodate the Kem and Carolyn Gardner Learning and Leadership Building, a 45,000-square-foot, $30 million structure that will house the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business’ experiential learning programs.
The space where Greaves and Reeder halls stood will be filled by a parking structure and a new five-story, apartment-style housing facility. Eventually, Merrill Hall, which was built the year after the trio of halls to the west, will come down and be replaced by a sister residence hall.
Whitney Milligan, the director of Residence Life at USU, says each of the recently demolished South Campus housing structures accommodated about 70 students. In order to offset the loss of living space, she says it was decided to postpone the demolition of Mountain View Tower until after the new residence hall is completed.
“Mountain View was technically supposed to be torn down after Canyon Crest (Suites) opened up, but it got pushed back once the decision was made for Reeder and the others to come down,” Milligan explains. “So, we’re going to keep it going as best we can until at least the new residence hall because there’s a pretty high demand for housing right now.”
That was also the case nearly seven decades ago when Reeder, Greaves and Moen became the first new women’s dormitories at what was then known as Utah State Agricultural College since Lund Hall was built in 1938. In a small brochure published in October 1956 entitled “Your Guide to Utah State,” the as-yet-to-named buildings were a huge selling point:
Just completed on the campus are the beautiful, ultra-modern women’s residence halls. Here students reside in home-like conditions and engage in family-type living. The interchange of ideas and the interaction of personalities add substantially to the student’s education.
Like Hoggan, Milligan also lived in the South Campus residence halls in the ‘80s, settling into Reeder Hall for two years in 1984 before moving over to Moen for her junior year, where she took on the role of resident assistant.
Milligan, who has worked for USU ever since, says she has lived all over campus, but Reeder and Moen were “by far my favorites.”
“It was a blast,” the Sandy native declares. “I came up with one of my best friends from high school, and it was just a lot of fun having roommates from all around the state.”
Known collectively as “MGR,” Milligan says each building would design T-shirts for the residents each year, create spook alleys in the basements, and get together in the TV lounge to watch their favorite soap opera every afternoon.
“We would schedule our classes so that we could all watch it; there would be like 20 of us down there watching Days of Our Lives together every day,” she says. “We actually even had a Days of Our Lives party where we all dressed up as the different character.”
Milligan remembers keeping in touch with her parents via a single payphone in the common area and laying out in the sun on the third-floor deck on warm spring days.
“My mom would call every Sunday night, and whoever was closest to the phone would just answer it and come find me,” she says.
In addition to her memories, Milligan says she has some scrapbooks full of photos from her time at Reeder and Moen halls. And a thoughtful friend from USU Facilities also managed to salvage the metal “R” from the front of Reeder Hall for her before it was torn down.
“It’s the end of an era, for sure, having those buildings go away,” she says.