Pomerene Hall: A campus icon reborn
The Translational Data Analytics Institute opened in a newly renovated Pomerene Hall on August 21, 2018, marking the exciting rebirth of a campus landmark that first opened in 1922 as the Women’s Building.
The remarkable transformation was the result of significant investment by both Ohio State and the state of Ohio to create a university hub for collaborative innovation in data science and analytics.
Ohio State's first building for women
The year was 1917, and women students at The Ohio State University were only allowed to study in one small room in University Hall, as it was considered inappropriate and distracting for a woman to study next to a man. Nicknamed the “Gab Room,” the space was also where women students could socialize and hold events, for an annual fee of 25 cents.
As the number of women students at Ohio State grew, the Women’s Council appealed to the university legislature for a women’s building. In 1922, the first part of Pomerene Hall opened at 1760 Neil Ave. with a gymnasium, education classes and social rooms. A natatorium, lounges, a kitchen and a refectory were completed in 1927. Inspired by Jacobethan Revival style, Pomerene Hall provided a crucial space for people who faced marginalization elsewhere.
Many students have expressed how Pomerene gave them a feeling of a place on campus which was theirs and made them feel the university cared or it would not have created for them a place of quiet…refinement.
–OSU Centennial ’68
Arriving at that great spot each morning by 6 a.m., I relished those quiet two hours before class, studying, chatting with students and professors, eating my breakfast and drinking a few cups of coffee in the lovely Pomerene Hall. It was a great way to [begin] my day and will always hold a treasured spot on campus.
–Kay Helman, ’70, ’72
I can still remember the gymnastics class where we used large metal rings and long ribbons on a stick to leap around the floor while a piano player was providing appropriate music. A little strange in today’s world. The first floor of Pomerene had the most comfortable old wingback chairs, and it was wonderful to curl up with a book and relax. The cafeteria in the basement had coffee for 5 cents. What wonderful memories!
–Linda Pickering, ’62
Long before there were intercollegiate athletics for women, I taught basketball to women’s physical education majors in the gym in Pomerene. In addition to the games between students, we always had a student-faculty game. The friendships that developed between students, faculty and staff lasted all our lives.
–Catherine Marting Bremner, PhD ’50
Autumn 1970, if you were female and wanted to go swim, you went to the Pomerene Hall pool. They had blue wool one-piece swimming suits you had to wear. The suits were so tight you had to squeeze into them, but as soon as you got into the water, they expanded and almost fell off.
–B G Scranton BFA ’75, M Ed ’88
A place to gather
Nearly synonymous with Pomerene Hall has been the eating establishment on the ground floor, which for a time was also a laboratory for students in the Institutional Management Division of the School of Home Economics to experiment with new types of cooking. It has gone by many names--the Mirror Lake Creamery, the Rathskeller, the Refectory, and, today Mirror Lake Eatery--but it has remained a favorite place for people to gather.
My friends and I walked to Mirror Lake at least three times a week from the North Campus dorms, and we would stay for a couple hours talking and eating. It was a great way to build community with a group of people I’m still friends with to this day.
Pomerene Hall also featured a grand ballroom on the second floor, with a wood-paneled walls and ornate plaster ceiling. It was home to dance classes and organizations as well as school dances.
Pomerene 213 was the place where the Argentine Tango student groups (ATCO and TangoOSU) of OSU met to practice and party on Saturday and Wednesday nights during the quarters and semesters, instructed by Yuval.
–Ohio State Professor Yuval Flicker
The ballroom where people learned how to tango in the ’90s was also the site for the Engineers’ Prom of 1942, where faculty and chaperones looked on from the edge of the dance floor and from a hidden door while engineering students and their dates dined and danced the night away. Later, the ballroom was shown in the 1984 film “The Jesse Owens Story."
Recognizing the growth of data science and analytics in research and the need to teach students new skills in these fields, the state of Ohio State contributed $42 million toward transforming Ohio State's Pomerene Hall into a hub for big data innovation.
The Ohio Higher Education Funding Commission described Ohio State’s investment in big data that included the Translational Data Analytics Institute as putting Ohio on the cutting edge of an increasingly crucial industry.
Ideation Zone and Labs
The university’s first women’s gymnasium is now a modern research, teaching environment for the Translational Data Analytics Institute, with labs for building hardware, testing software, and conducting large-scale visualization analyses and data simulations. In addition to adaptive meeting spaces, interactive displays and glass boards, the Ideation Zone features a bar top area and a large open space perfect for workshops and events.
The Grand Atrium
The centerpiece of renovated Pomerene Hall is a three-story Grand Atrium, the primary connection point to all levels of the building and a beautiful space for hosting events. It features original brick walls, balconies with seating, and an original Sol LeWitt wall drawing that soars from floor to ceiling.
Adjacent to the new atrium is an addition with two new classrooms that replaced the 1927 structure that housed the Pomerene swimming pool.
The next chapter
While its purpose has evolved over the course of its nearly 100-year history, Pomerene Hall remains a treasured gem of Ohio State's Columbus campus and a place for diverse people to gather.
Today, the Translational Data Analytics Institute's 21,000 square feet in Pomerene Hall are dedicated to teaching, learning and--more importantly--inclusiveness. All are welcome.