A Brief History of Martin Hall
Located in the heart of WVU’s Downtown Campus, Martin Hall is the oldest building on the University campus. Completed in 1870, it was originally named University Hall. It was the first building constructed by the new West Virginia University, which was established by the combination of Woodburn Female Seminary and Monongalia Academy in 1867.The uniqueness of Martin Hall saved it from destruction – the fate of many early University buildings torn down to make room for new construction. Considered an irreplaceable example of 19th century architecture, Martin Hall and the other Woodburn Circle buildings (Woodburn Hall and Chitwood Hall) have been entered on the National Register of Historic Places.
George A. Smyth, former University architect, said Martin Hall “was built in the eclectic period of the Classic Revival and can be identified as being in the French manner of the Second Empire.”
The building was renamed Martin Hall in 1889, in honor of the University’s first president, the Rev. Alexander Martin. A Methodist minister born in Scotland, Martin was WVU’s president from its founding until 1875.
For nearly 50 years, Martin Hall was the center for all classes for prep students and served as headquarters for the Columbian and Parthenon Literary societies. From 1918 through 1952, it housed the physics department.
In 1952, Dr. Perley Isaac Reed, dean of the College of Media, petitioned to move the College from its cramped quarters on the top floor of Woodburn Hall to Martin Hall. After a renovation, the College of Media moved into its new quarters in 1953.
Under the direction of Dean Guy Stewart, the building underwent major renovations in 1976-1977. Martin Hall was gutted, and a new interior was constructed to improve classroom and office space and provide upgraded facilities.
Since 2005, Martin Hall has undergone another series of renovations designed to improve the building’s aging infrastructure and provide a more modern instructional environment for College of Media students. Martin Hall’s recent renovations are an extension of Dean Stewart’s vision, bringing the College of Media into the 21st century.