The first women's building: The history of Pomerene Hall
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
Emphasis on health and wellness
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 renowned gathering spot
Nearly synonymous with Pomerene Hall has been the eating facility on the ground floor, which for a time also served as a laboratory for students in the Institutional Management Division of the School of Home Economics to experiment with new types of cooking. Whether it's been called the Mirror Lake Creamery or Mirror Lake Eatery, the Rathskeller or the Refectory, the establishment has remained a lively 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.
On the second floor Pomerene's grand ballroom, with its wood-paneled walls and ornate plaster ceiling, 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 featured in the 1984 film “The Jesse Owens Story," including scenes of Jesse Owens playing the piano and a boardroom discussion.
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 welcoming place for people to gather. Read about its renovation to become the home of the Translational Data Analytics Institute.