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From Special Collections/University Archives: The History of Dana Engineering

In my latest installment, I thought it would be interesting to focus on the physical campus: What was different? What buildings were new? What did the campus look like? Many buildings that are familiar to us today were in fact part of campus in 1920, such as the President’s House, Bucknell Hall, and the Carnegie building, among others. However, many of the buildings we are familiar with either looked very different or did not exist on campus in 1920. The Engineering building, for example, began construction in 1921. The original building itself has gone under multiple renovations, and its history shows how much technology has evolved over the last century.

The first wing of the building was completed in March 1922, almost a year after breaking ground. Professor Frank E. Burpee, Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds, Benjamin Wilson, Instructor in Mechanical Engineering and campus workers were involved in its construction. The building was not updated for the next ten years, but construction for two new wings broke ground on September 29th, 1938. The four engineering departments were then housed in the U-shaped building by September 1940. 

The engineering building, before its 1938 addition

In 1960 the building was dedicated to Charles A. Dana, a manufacturer, for his support of engineering and science education at the University. Prior to naming the engineering building after Charles A. Dana, it was simply known as the  “the engineering building.” Between 1961 and 1962, the Freas-Rooke Computing Center was installed on the second floor, named after Guy Freas and Robert L. Rooke, both graduates and trustees of the university. At the time, the Computing Center would be very advanced, considering there were very few computers, as they were costly and took up the space of entire rooms. Renamed as the Computer Center, it was moved to an adjacent building named the Computer Center Building in 1981.

In 1995, the University received a grant from the GE Funds Faculty to the Future Program, which funded research with women and minority students to develop multimedia courseware for new electronic classrooms. This was located in what is now Dana 227.

Where many of us walk in front of the building today, there was a parking lot up until 2002. However, this lot was destroyed and converted to lawn, creating a more pedestrian-friendly space. In 2011, the Richard J. Mooney Innovative Design Lab was added to the building with 2200 extra square feet, and in 2016 the Maker-E was opened as a new MakerSpace, enabling those who use it to design and fabricate printed circuit boards. Now, the Maker-E has virtual reality technology, vinyl cutters, a 3-D printer, and hosts events for children using Littlebits circuit kits.

The Charles A. Dana Engineering building has undoubtedly changed since it’s construction in the 1920s, becoming a space where design and technology work hand-in-hand. I think that the students from that time would have marvelled at what we are capable of now, and would have never expected that the small building they once knew would now house technology and resources that have changed the world.

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