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UM Urban Legends Series : What were the dorms really used for before we moved in?

The Miami Hurricane was recently asked by dozens of students to investigate the ongoing rumors that the residential towers were created by an architect who designed insane asylums and that the Mahoney/Pearson area was once used as a makeshift hospital in the early years of UM.
As for the towers, the name of the architect seems to have vanished from UM records, and neither the Department of Residence Halls nor the Richter Library has the name of the architect easily accessible.
“We don’t have those records,” Jon Baldessari, assistant director of Residence Halls, said.
“That rumor is crazy, but it explains why I feel so crazy in the halls,” Susan Pierce, freshman, said. “There are no windows, and the rooms have their furniture bolted to the walls.”
“”It wouldn’t be so bad if the walls weren’t so white,” Peter Robertson, sophomore, said. “Does this mean they think we’re crazy and we should be institutionalized?”
Many students also believe that the courthouse in Downtown Miami and several prisons in South Florida were built by the same architect.
“I always thought that the guy had designed prisons, not insane asylums,” Illiana Gutirrez, a UM graduate, said. “If you look at some of the correctional facilities around the area, it’s obvious they have the same style and look as the dorms at UM.”
As for the buzz that Mahoney and Pearson were once used as hospitals, a few UM-affiliated individuals and administrators believe that that rumor started as a result of the fact that the Biltmore Hotel was once used as a makeshift hospital.
“With the onset of World War II, the War Department converted The Biltmore to a hospital,” said the official website of the Biltmore Hotel. “It served the wounded as the Army Air Forces Regional Hospital. Many of the windows were sealed with concrete, and the marble floors covered with Government Issue linoleum.”
The Biltmore remained a hospital until 1968, which leads many to wonder if Mahoney and Pearson were converted to a hospital once the towers were built that same year, and students were allowed to move in.
“After hearing all of these stories, I have nightmares,” Vikas Johari, a freshman who lives in Pearson, said. “I cannot image the possibility of sleeping in a room where someone could have died.”
Johari says he will survive and asks that the administration disregard his exaggerations.
“I know somebody that went to school here that stayed in Mahoney the first semester it was opened,” Jessa Steinbeck, junior, said. “I know for a fact that [Mahoney] wasn’t used as a hospital back then.”
The history of the residence halls is a long one.
The on-campus apartments, completed in 1948, are the oldest residence facilities at UM. Originally a 29-building complex, it was intended to house married veterans and their families. Today, the apartment area houses mostly upperclassmen and study abroad/exchange students.
Eaton, the oldest residence hall on campus, was opened and dedicated in 1954 and was quoted as being an “ultra-ultra dorm” by The Miami Herald. Early in UM history, Eaton was an all-women hall and remained so until the beginning of the 1970s.
It wasn’t until 1958 that Mahoney, an all-men’s residence hall, was completed. Four years later, Pearson, an all-women’s residence hall, was completed and opened. Eventually, in the early 1970s, Mahoney and Pearson were connected on the first floor and the buildings were converted to a co-ed facility.
The towers came along in the late 60s; Hecht was originally called the 1968 Complex because it opened in 1968. Stanford, also built in 1968, was originally called the 960 Complex because it could hold a maximum of 960 residents at the time of its construction. In the 1984-85 school year, all the residence halls were converted to residential colleges, modeled after the academic traditions established at Cambridge and Oxford to establish a social learning community that is both convenient and entertaining.

The Miami Hurricane will continue to investigate popular urban legends at UM through the month of February.

For suggestions on urban legends to be researched, please contact Jorge Arauz, News Editor, at xxarauzxx@ yahoo.com.

February 18, 2003

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The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.