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Bray: Counting the rings - The Forestry Building - now known as Bray Hall turns 100 in 2017.

Counting the rings - The Forestry Building - now known as Bray Hall turns 100 in 2017.

Counting the rings - The Forestry Building - now known as Bray Hall turns 100 in 2017.

Article as published in the Winter 2017 SUNY ESF Alumni News Printed Edition, page 6.

Jane Verostek, Associate Librarian at SUNY ESF and ESF Alumni '92

As ESF faculty, staff and students go about their daily business in Bray Hall in the Spring of 2017 a monumental anniversary will be taking place underfoot. In March 1917 Bray Hall opened as the college's first building - however it was not always known as Bray Hall. From 1917 until 1933 Bray Hall was called "The Forestry Building". In 1933 when ESF's second building was dedicated as Marshall Hall after Louis Marshall - the college decided to rename The Forestry Building in honor of the first head of the college - acting Dean William Bray. 

Prior to "The Forestry Building" - the College of Forestry at Syracuse University was housed in the basement of Lyman Hall from 1911 to 1917 on the Syracuse University campus. In 1911 the College of Forestry at S.U. had 52 students, 2 faculty and one Dean and all were housed in the basement of Lyman Hall.

On May 26, 1913 the Syracuse Post Standard reported on the ground breaking of The Forestry Building and forecasted that the building would be completed in the Fall of 1914. The newspaper further reported that "Syracuse gets big building for forestry as NY Governor Sulzer signed the bill providing for the construction of this structure and that Syracuse University is to have the largest, most complete building in the United States devoted exclusively to educational work in forestry." In the same article the head of the college - Dean Baker said that "the $250,000 appropriation means that Syracuse will be the home of the best equipped forestry institution in the country."

As progress was made on the building the Syracuse Post Standard continued to report and in April 1916 the Post Standard reported that "The new building 280 feet in length and 60 feet in width...will be occupied by the largest student body of any of its kind in the United States. The entrance faces Irving Avenue and is very conspicuous and imposing, the steps and foundations of the entrance being of granite, while two rectangular blocks of dressed sandstone of the same material as the basement and pillars, ten feet high and five feet wide and weighing nearly one ton each, are placed on either side of the entrance."

From the book - The New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University: a History of its First Twenty-Five Years, 1911-1936 - "Bray Hall was dedicated in September 1916 and occupied in March 1917. “Its wide corridors and stairways and the beautiful rotunda, extending three floors occupy 40 percent of the space in the building. The rotunda adds a sense of grandeur and dignity to the building." Photos in the SUNY ESF Archives and Special collections document the original rotunda and the College of Forestry students moving from Lyman Hall to The Forestry Building - Bray Hall.

The 25 year history book also goes into depth and describes how the space was allocated. On the first floor of "The Forestry Building" - Bray Hall - the library, the treasurer's office, the offices of the Department of Forest Management, the Engineering Department offices, lecture halls and the office of the Dean were located. The second floor housed a large faculty room that "contained a large English Oak table and light oak chairs but later became a mahogany tale made from a single plank donated by the Philippine alumni." The English Oak table was repurposed and given to the students for their club room. The second floor also housed the Extension Department, a recitation room, Landscape Engineering drafting rooms, the Botany Department, the Department of Dendrology and the Department of Recreation.

The main purpose of the third floor was to house a large general convocation hall for students. Part of the fourth floor had been earmarked for a greenhouse but it was found that the temperatures on the fourth floor of Bray were too hot for this purpose and the space became a storage area. The rest of the fourth floor housed the Zoology, Botany and Entomology Departments. For a brief time the entire Eastern section of Bray Hall on the fourth floor was a rifle range for students until the Zoology department needed more storage space. Over time there were more needs for space for such things as photography departments, darkrooms, office space, etc. and the central stairways on the West side of Bray were removed so that eight offices could be built in their place.

The history of Bray Hall is rich with the details of how the college started and grew. Much has changed on campus over time with not only Bray Hall but the other buildings on our main and remote campuses. More information on the history of the college and its buildings can be found online at one of our digital repository sites - Digital Commons @ ESF