During the COVID-19 Pandemic, many in the Berea College community submitted their unique perspectives on the situation to President Roelofs to share with campus. The following is the next in a series appearing here at Berea Beloved.
Encountering Berea’s Old Quarantine Dorm
By Christopher A. Miller, College Curator, Associate Director of the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center
Over the years, I have encountered bits and pieces about Berea’s historical quarantine practices. From at least 1906 until 1940, Berea had designated quarantine spaces that were used during annual outbreaks of influenza. One such space was the third floor of Stephenson Hall where EPG is located today. Stephenson Hall used to be two separate buildings and this side was the Bruce Building. In the basement of Bruce was the college’s on-campus saw and planing mill. On the first floor street side, where the Appalachian Center is now, was the print shop, fully equipped for hot-lead typecasting and offset printing. The back half of the first floor, where First Year Initiatives is now, as well as the entire second floor, was the woodworking shop which supported Woodcraft, woodworking instruction, and Facilities Management. Finally, on the third floor of Bruce Building was the quarantine dorm. Sometime after World War II, the quarantine dorm was converted to storage. However, in 1999-2000, it was completely emptied in preparation for remodeling as the home of EPG. After clearing, but before renovation, I was in that space to scout for historical artifacts. It has green painted pine floors and tongue-and-groove wooden walls. There were deep marks in the floor made by rows of metal bunk beds. What is now Peter Hackbert’s office was the restroom, with three old toilets and two showers. On street-side brick wall were the remains of an old candlestick telephone and a bulletin board. I spent about an hour in that forgotten room. Because of my training as a social historian and curator, those visible clues kept bringing to my mind the anxiety and suffering that once occurred in that space. Our current crisis has brought back that memory and gives me increased insight.