Filed Under Mood

Mood-Bridwell: The Building's History & Legacy

Mood-Bridwell is undergoing another major renovation. Should we take this opportunity to also change its name?

Mood-Bridwell, as we have known it for the past few decades, has served Southwestern’s campus as a place for classes to be held, professors’ office spaces to be housed, and campus events to be hosted.

However, professors have not been the only people housed in Mood-Bridwell. Completed in 1908, the building was the third major building on campus (after the Ladies Annex and the Administration Building–now Cullen), and originated as a dormitory called Mood Hall. It housed multiple generations of mostly male Southwestern students before it was decommissioned in 1966 and renovated, repurposed, and renamed Mood-Bridwell in 1975.

This history of the building has not been forgotten in Southwestern’s collective memory. Arguably, until very recently, it’s been a difficult history to forget, as the interior infrastructure of Mood-Bridwell seemed to haunt those who have recently inhabited it. All of this is in limbo right now as the building has been gutted but reconstruction has not yet begun, so if you are new to campus this year, you would not know how the building felt.

Instantly as you stepped foot within the building, you were hit with an old and rustic smell. The ceilings were low as you entered the door, and the pathways diverged into various narrow hallways that were once hallways to men’s dorm rooms on campus. Places that served as professors’ offices were once bedrooms (and even bathrooms), and this was easy to conceptualize when in the space.

The offices were “charmingly” asymmetrical and idiosyncratic, with some huge corner offices and some very narrow, fitting just a desk, a bookshelf, and some chairs, where there once would have been a bed. Some of the classrooms in the building were once likely dining rooms or social spaces, evidenced by their grand double doors and taller ceilings than the rest of the building holds. Others were likely the result of taking out walls between old dorm rooms.

As one walked into the central atrium of the building, one couldn’t help but look up, gazing across the wooden railings, exposing all three floors to one another, where students may have spoken back and forth while in their pajamas.

The infrastructure was built to house community–specifically, the community of male (and for two brief moments in the 1920s and 1940s, female) Southwestern students. Before Ruter Hall was built in the 1950s, almost every male student lived there for at least part of their educational career, creating a distinctive place-bound identity between them and the building. As is apparent in other entries about East Campus, this worked differently than the female social spaces on the other side of campus.

Community and Southwestern are two words that are inextricably linked in today’s campus culture, but the community within Mood has not always been all sunshine and rainbows. An October 1923 edition of The Megaphone testifies to the existence of a Ku Klux Klan chapter on Southwestern’s campus, advertising: “There will be an important meeting of the University Klansmen tonight at seven-thirty in Seldom Inn, Mood Hall. All members are urged to be present, as some important matters are to be discussed.”

Apart from this, the building’s namesake, Francis Asbury Mood, is himself a problematic figure. The building is named for Mood because he is the person credited with bringing together our four Root Colleges into one university located in Georgetown 150 years ago this year.

But as the building name celebrates his role in the founding of the University, we also need to remember that Mood volunteered for the role of Chaplain in the Confederacy, where he served in the early part of the Civil War. He also was deeply connected to other racial injustices in the 19th century South (see F.A. Mood Obelisk entry for more information).

All of this was known in 1975, when the University had the opportunity to rename the building after the renovation, but the University chose to ignore it, continuing to selectively emphasize Mood’s role as founder without reckoning with the other legacies right next to it. What will we do this time?

Right now, there are lots of people on campus mourning the loss of the building they knew. But that loss also creates an opening for us to think critically about the building, especially its name. Although the space of Mood-Bridwell has in recent years been neutralized away from a community dormitory and into a general campus space, and naturalized as a place name we all know and use daily, for many of us its name resonates with some harmful white supremicist histories that continue to reverberate today.

It is easier to feel both of those hauntings when you can see that the building is now something it didn’t used to be. But after Mood-Bridwell undergoes intense internal renovations, the haunting that came with its history as a dormitory will no longer be felt. The ceilings will be raised, the carpet replaced, and the smell new. With this transition from old to new, I wonder if a new name for the collective space would be more suited as well.

The stripping and gutting of the embodied space would be even more impactful when paired with the purposeful stripping away of Mood’s name in the building name, thus stripping away the oppressive history that looms there just below many community members’ consciousness.

Especially with Southwestern’s current claimed goals of DIBE and community-building, it is time to reassess whether or not Mood’s name is an appropriate fit for the new space. And it's time to talk about who else’s name would appear on the building if it isn’t the name of Francis Asbury Mood.

Images

Chalkboard graffiti in a classroom in Mood-Bridwell Hall, May 2023 Source: creator Creator: Bob Bednar Date: 2023
The residents of Mood Hall Source: SU Special Collections & Archives Creator: unknown Date: circa 1910s
Cover of Brochure for Rededication of Mood-Bridwell Hall Source: SU Special Collections & Archives Creator: unknown Date: 1975
Mood-Bridwell Atrium during demolition, May 2023 Source: creator Creator: Bob Bednar Date: 2023
Mood-Bridwell Atrium furniture liquidation, May 2023 Source: creator Creator: Bob Bednar Date: 2023
Mood-Bridwell Atrium furniture liquidation, May 2023 Source: creator Creator: Bob Bednar Date: 2023
Chalkboard graffiti in a classroom in Mood-Bridwell Hall, May 2023 Source: creator Creator: Bob Bednar Date: 2023
Chalkboard graffiti in a classroom in Mood-Bridwell Hall, May 2023 Source: creator Creator: Bob Bednar Date: 2023
Chalkboard graffiti in a classroom in Mood-Bridwell Hall, May 2023 Source: creator Creator: Bob Bednar Date: 2023

Location

Metadata

Teddy Hoffman '24, “Mood-Bridwell: The Building's History & Legacy,” Placing Memory, accessed May 23, 2024, https://placingmemory.southwestern.edu/items/show/79.