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A tour of Johnson Hall today

Growing popularity and rising student enrollment proved SUNY Oswego's current facilities to be inadequate for the growing student population. In 1955, New York State Governor W. Averell Harriman announced the construction of Johnson Hall as part of an effort to remedy this insufficiency. This building would cost $854,000 and take three years to complete.

In 1958, Johnson Hall was opened and dedicated, taking the name of Harold B. Johnson, publisher of Watertown Daily Times and chair of the Oswego Board of Visitors (now the College Council) who helped gain college status for the Oswego State Normal School in 1942. Johnson also was a founding member and guiding force in the work of the State Dormitory Authority.

Evolving experience

At its opening, Johnson Hall, like most other residence halls, was a unisex dormitory housing 200 young women. While other residence halls gradually opened to co-ed living, Johnson Hall remained a unisex dormitory into the 1990s.

But Johnson Hall underwent a big change in the 21st century -- a $14 million renovation to enhance the residential experience and implement a first-year program for incoming freshman. The changes to Johnson Hall, which re-opened in 2003, were noticeable inside and out. The addition of a fourth floor allowed room for more students to enjoy both the new program and new facility. Other additions included a foyer, spacious lounge area with a stone fireplace, expansive deck and modern classroom complex. Each room received new furniture, walls, windows, wiring, and fire and smoke detector systems. A final exciting addition: occupant-controlled air conditioning. While it was the second on-campus residence ever built, the renovated Johnson Hall provides new students with an ultra-modern on-campus living experience.

Today, 240 first-year students each year become part of a community that learns, lives and laughs together, complete with some first-year classes and opportunities to bond while serving others through the The First-Year Residential Experience. The intent of this program was "to integrate the opportunities that exist on campus, both academically and non-academically, into first-year life of students," Chuck Weeks, then director of residence life and housing, told The Palladium-Times in 2003 Palladium-Times. Residential mentors and teaching assistants along with other faculty members provide academic advice to residents in providing a new, cozy home away from home.

-- Kathleen Davis, Class of 2012