Souvenirs and sighs at 96 Beacon St. sendoff

by Beacon Staff • April 12, 2006

As the school year comes to a close, so will several buildings used by Emerson on Beacon and Arlington streets. One of these buildings, the Student Union, has been used for rehearsal space, small gatherings and other events. Students, faculty and past alumni said a last farewell to the old Student Union that has resided at 96 Beacon St. since 1964.

The event was held on Thursday, April 6 between noon and 7 p.m. Several rooms in the Student Union displayed poster boards featuring pictures from Emerson College throughout the past century, and one hosted a "stuff your own lion" craft table, where participants were able to personalize T-shirts for stuffed Emerson Lions (an activity so popular that by 6 p.m., they had run out of T-shirts).

Room 21, a large room overlooking Beacon Street, boasted snacks representing the range of decades in Emerson's past, with items ranging from Cracker Jacks (invented in 1893) to Twizzlers (1929), Jolly Ranchers (1949) and Ring Pops (introduced in 1977).

The hallway outside was filled with old yearbooks from Emerson's past. Anyone who stopped by was able to take home a yearbook from the year of their choosing. Alumnus Bella Vance said that she was interested in finding a 1980 yearbook because she has yet to receive one. Unfortunately, there was no yearbook labeled 1980 found on the tables throughout the building.

Also present were photocopies of old Berkeley Beacon articles, as well as press releases that described some of the school's history.

Emerson purchased 96 Beacon St. in 1964, and it was formally dedicated on Jan. 8, 1965. In a press release attached to one of the posters dated Nov. 19, 1964, it stated that 96 Beacon St. had been known as the Engineer's Club prior to Emerson College's purchase.

The announcement of acquisition was made, and then President S. Justus McKinley (not to be confused with the U.S. President William McKinley) and the Board of Trustees agreed that the Student Union was "an imposing brick structure well suited to serve the needs of a college and its students."

Emerson's newest building, the not-yet-completed 150 Boylston St., is set to serve the college as the new Student Union. After the events on Monday, April 3, in which three people were killed in a construction accident, Emerson students paid their respects by weaving flowers through the chain-link fence at the accident site.

Even though construction was halted at the Piano Row residence hall which will also house Emerson's new Student Union, this has not stopped students and alumni alike from saying farewell to 96 Beacon St.

The Student Union will not go without a few goodbyes from some of its greatest fans. Alumna Nicole Witkov, who received a BFA in Writing, Literature and Publishing from Emerson in 2003, has remained in the Boston area, working at Wheelock College.

Witkov had mixed feelings about the closing. "It will be sad and disappointing to see it go," she said. "There is a lot of character in this building, but it was a smart move for the college. It is more realistic and makes for a more competitive college."