Morehouse Residence Hall

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Morehouse Residence Hall

Originally submitted by Katie Risvold, Drake University, Dec. 5, 2010

Morehouse Residence Hall looking southwest (Picture by Katie Risvold, 2010)

On the outside, Morehouse Residence Hall is a simple building surrounded by a parking lot on its west side, and a few trees on the north and east sides. The basement consists of the Morehouse dining area, a kitchen, a lobby, the laundry and a few rooms. The first floor has an office, a small lounge that has a balcony that looks over into the dining area, some residence rooms, a mail room, and a small relaxing, living room. The second and third floors are both identical to each other, both floors having dorm rooms.[7]

The Beginning of Morehouse

"Ground was broken" on May 8th, 1931 for the Morehouse Residence Hall.[2] Morehouse was originally an all-women dorm, being able to house 77 women. "It is of Georgian Architecture and was constructed with brick and Bedford stone." It cost $125,000 to build. A wing was added in 1946.[7]

Howard Clark and President Morehouse "breaking ground" on May 8th, 1931. (Picture by Drake University)
"Reverend Charles S. Medbury offers prayer at the Laying of Cornerstone of the Women's Dormitory~June 6, 1931" (Picture by Drake University)

The two men who "wielded the official shovels" were Dr. Morehouse, the 6th president of Drake, and Howard J. Clark, the president of the Drake University Dormitory Association. There were also six others, the "shovel brigade," who were assisting Dr. Morehouse and Clark: Annamae Heaps, Margaret Sullivan, Cornelia Downs, Avis Christenson, Ruth Bakewell and Ethyl Visser.[2]

Clark had this to say about the new building: "If Des Moines is ever to have a university in its own right, Drake must be that institution....Erection of this dormitory is one step toward a bigger and better Drake." [2]

Louise C. Kurtz playing the cornet (Picture by Drake University, 1931)

Chairman of the board of the Iowa-Des Moines National Bank and Trust company, Louis C. Kurtz, played the cornet for the breaking of ground of the new Women's Dormitory. Kurtz also played the cornet, during his youth, for the first "laying of the cornerstone" of the first Drake building fifty years before. "It is as great a pleasure to be present today as it was to be at the laying of the cornerstone of the original main building a half century ago. I appreciate the opportunity to assist in building a great Drake University," Kurtz stated.[2]

President Morehouse announced the building would be ready for residents at the start of the fall semester, 1931. "There are single and double rooms....The dining room is open also to men and women students living outside. The lounges occupy the south half of the first floor....It has been the insistent aim of the university to make this dormitory at once a home and a social center for our young people." [2]

Special Aspects of Morehouse

The Ballroom

The prayer they sang before every dinner. (Picture from, 1936)

While the Morehouse dining area (sometimes called the Morehouse ballroom) isn't used as often today as it did back then, it's still an important part of Morehouse residence hall and also for Drake. Many events have taken place here, and many different events still take place here. For example, for Halloween in 2010 the ballroom was used for a haunted house that invited all students to come. Also, on November 30th, 2010, Anime Club held a "What is Anime?" event that showed a movie and other activities. There are lots of events that take place, but back before Hubbell Dining Hall was built, the Morehouse Ballroom was the original dining area that everyone would go to.

The ballroom was able to hold up to 120 students and they would eat, socialize, and singing a prayer before their meal. Evelyn Zirbel Gallagher recalls what it was like eating at the Morehouse dining area. She was a resident at Morehouse when it was first opened. [3]

Picture of the Morehouse Ballroom in 1931 (Picture by Drake University)
Morehouse Dining Hall looking northwest (Picture by Katie Risvold, 2010)
Morehouse Ballroom

The Cornerstone

Two years engraved on the outside of Morehouse (Picture by Katie Risvold, 2010)

On the north-east corner of the building, two years are engraved on the outside wall:

  • 1931: the year when Morehouse was created
  • 1946: the year a new wing was added to the dorm

Morehouse Statue

In the living room at Morehouse sits a statue of President Morehouse. There is a 'legend' that if you rub the statue's nose before a test, you will have good luck.

Daniel W. Morehouse Statue (Picture by Katie Risvold, 2010)

Bronze Plaque

A bronze plaque lays on the wall near the main office in Morehouse. It is dedicated to President Morehouse.

Text: Daniel Walter Morehouse This residence for students is named in honor of Daniel Walter Morehouse, Drake's sixth president, graduate of the classes of 1900 and 1902. Professor of Astronomy and Physics 1900-41. Discoverer of the Morehouse Comet, Dean of Men 1918-21, Dean, College of Liberal Arts, 1922-30. President of the University 1922-41. In honoring President Morehouse, the University pays tribute to all the presidents and chancellors of the institution since its founding in 1881.

The Bronze Plaque (Picture by Katie Risvold, 2010)

Big Incidents at Morehouse

Note: These are just a few of the many events that have taken place at Morehouse.

Morehouse for Sale?

In November of 1983, thirteen "For Sale" signs sat in the front lawn of Morehouse. For the students of Drake, this was just a simple prank; however Security saw this as vandalism. The few anonymous students had taken the signs from actual houses on one side of town. Besides collecting the "For Sale" signs, Des Moines officials said that students from Drake have also collected traffic and street signs, placing them in their windows or even in dorm rooms. The campus security supervisor, Douglas Clifton, said, "Certainly there was no intend to break laws....If they wanted to pull a har-har, they could have made their own signs." So, Morehouse was never up for sale, despite what was placed in the front lawn that morning.[8]

Morehouse changed into Offices?

In February 1985, a huge event hung upon the minds of all the women who lived at Morehouse. There was a chance the first floor would be changed into offices. Here were some of the concerns the women of Morehouse had:

  • On Feb. 22, the women held an Open House to show non-residents what Morehouse was like.
  • Kristi Van Ekeren (one of the residents) said, "We, the women of Morehouse...feel threatened....Morehouse is a bridge between what the founders wanted Drake to be and what it is becoming."
  • Many of the residents started petitions that both student, alumni, and even professors signed.
  • A letter of protest had been sent to the Des Moines Register, the Board of Trustees, Drake alumni, President Miller and to the 'director of student living environments, Brodie.

That letter, from the residents of Morehouse, contained their arguments on the change:

  • Noise between floors (the residents might disturb the office workers, and the office workers might disturb the residents).
  • If the first floor is open to anyone, than that's too much free access to the second and third floors as well

Morehouse wasn't the only building considered for these new offices; however, Brodie, the director of student living environments, stated that, "Morehouse is being considered...because it is centrally-located on campus...and entirely under Drake ownership." Some of the other buildings being considered were not entirely paid for and owned by Drake. Even though they weren't sure what building to use yet, Brodie had informed the residents of Morehouse before changes or decisions had actually been made.

Finally, on March 8th, 1985, residents got their answer from an article with the headline: "Administrators drop plan to convert Morehouse." The decision had been made by President Miller and the four vice presidents, "on a recommendation from Adams (the vice president of student life)." [5, 6, 9]

No Extra Security

One brief event happened later that same year, 1985, in October. After a sexual assault took place in Morehouse, there were no plans of adding extra security to the residence hall. Adams, the vice president of student life and chairman of the security committee, said, "If we look like we're being too protective, the students won't cooperate. But if the students see there's a problem, they'll work with us and thank us for taking certain measures."

Morehouse hall director, Kate Murauskas, said that no resident has asked for stricter security. "Our community was hit....They're becoming more strict among themselves. They're enforcing the escort policy for everyone who doesn't live there-whether male or female." [1]

"Parents Night Out"

In October of 1987, the Morehouse Awareness Committee sent out a letter to all staff, faculty, and administration, announcing their first "Parents Night Out" on November 7th. Children could be dropped off at Morehouse from 6 PM, but had to be picked up before 12 AM. Games, toys, and movies were planned from ages 3-14. Morehouse provided blankets, pillows and a resting place (the large living room) for all those "early to bed children." Even though they didn't have nursery facilities, Morehouse was ready to welcome any infant.[4]


  • 1. Button, Cathy. (1985, Oct. 25th). No extra security actions taken in Morehouse Hall. Times-Delphic.
  • 2. Darlingon, Chas. (1931, June). Break Ground for Girls' Dormitory. The Drake Alumnus.
  • 3. Gallagher, Evelyn Zirbel. (2006 Spring). Interview.
  • 4. Hicks, Emily B. (1987, Oct. 26th). A Letter to faculty, administration and staff about "Parents Night Out."
  • 5. Huner, Darlene. (1985, March 8th). Administrators drop plan to convert Morehouse. Times-Delphic.
  • 6. Huner, Darlene and Barker, Charlie. (1985, Feb. 26th). Morehouse cited for changes. Times-Delphic.
  • 7. Miscellaneous Drake Article.
  • 8. Postell, Charlene, Wilcox, Sherri and Wood, Diane. (1983, Nov. 18th). Morehouse not for sale; vandals thriving. Times-Delphic.
  • 9. Van Ekeren, Kristi. (1985, Feb. 22nd). Proposal threatens Morehouse. Times-Delphic.