J. Alvin Renovation

Timeline of J. Alvin


                    1950s                        1980s


  1960s   1990s
1940s   1970s   2000s




June 1

  • Cornerstone placed (pictured right). The same day, Jesse H. Jones hands an astonished J. E. Brown a check for $50,000 for the new construction, in honor of Jones’ father and motherJune 1920 - Laying Cornerstone
  • In laying the cornerstone, John Brown Sr. used a silver trowel which William Waterhouse brought from California, “—a trowel that was presented to John Thomas Waterhouse (William’s father)…on the occasion of his laying the corner stone of the Wesleyan Chapel, Reading, England, fifty years ago.”
  • Built mostly by construction students
  • Fundraiser launched during the ceremony and urges people to buy bricks for the building 
  • Building was not finished in time -- “…When it became obvious that it was impossible to finish this building [J. Alvin Brown Hall] in time for the fall opening, the school in the interim having accepted 120 student, it was necessary to enlarge our first structure [Southwestern] to accommodate the increase.”


  • Original had lobby with tables, seats, pictures, old-fashioned red brick fireplace; full second-story balcony on side facing campus
  • 44 single rooms, with a 2 teacher apartment on west end
  • Majority contains 3-stacked cots, a table, chairs, and lockers. 
  • Starting fall 1921, when men moved out of Southwestern, the building has always served as the principle mens dorm.JAlvinRenovationProject


  • Original plans completed for the building


  • A porch was added


  • At an election in the boys dormitory, a name was chosen for their building, and on July 20, 1929, in an impressive ceremony it was christened, "J. Alvin Brown Hall."
  • Dedicated in honor of J. Alvin, or “Uncle Alvin” (younger brother of Brown, known for devoting his best to everything he did; worked closely with John Brown Sr. during the early days of fundraising)


  • Lower floor houses college print shop and offices of the Federation Publishing Company
  • Upper floor consists of parlors, apartments for teachers and rooms for app. 180 students


  • Poor sanitation and freezing temperatures inside buildings is common problem. J. Alvin dorm considered “worst offender.”
  • John Brown Sr., instructs Richard Hodges, the school superintendent, to hire “some good women who will just live in the rooms of those boys, and fight dirt until those rooms will pass the most rigid inspection.”

19401937 Washington Banquet (JBU tradition)

  • Housed nearly 100 men;
  • ‘40s had staff apartments, a parlor, a periodical reading room, and club rooms;


  • The porch to J. Alvin is enclosed; other renovations to improve interior are done


  • Prayer room built in the fall and is partially furnished through the efforts of the Home Ec. Club.


  • February 18 - part of ceiling falls in south lobby and breaks a divan
  • Sept. 20 – Ground is broken for the Murray Sells Memorial Housing Project. The new project will consist of the redesign, rebuilding and extension of J. Alvin Brown Hall, the oldest building on campus, at a cost of between $300,000-$500,000
  • December 16 – New rules announced concerning quiet hours in men’s dormitory. Students are permitted to study in their rooms as late as necessary. Absolute quiet is observed after 7:30 pm, and students must be in rooms by 10:00 pm J ALVIN


  • January – John E. Brown Sr. announces plans to enlarge and modernize both the California Building and the J. Alvin Brown Hall. This is due to the fact that the interiors had not been remodeled since the buildings were built some thirty years ago.
  • February – Plans for modernization of both California Building and J. Alvin Brown hall to include at least another 100 students. Each room will have lavatory with hot and cold water, ample closet room and storage for personal effects. Designs also include combination living room between each two bedrooms to make possible for four students to have access to living room.


  • September - John Brown University Bulletin announces that J. Alvin Brown Hall is to be “rebuilt and modernized in memory of a wonderful friend”


  • June 1 – President Brown receives work that the request for FHA loan has been approved for reconstructing the J. Alvin Brown Hall for men. Construction is to begin in September 1959 and be completed by September 1960.J. Alvin Renovation Project
  • August 3 – A special meeting of the Board of Trustees is called to approve the plans for the men’s dormitory.Plans call for the dorm have a south wing (second wing) constructed, giving the building a U-shape. 
  • Work is conducted in 2 phases: 1st replaces wooden interior, modernizes, replaces the roof, creates 8-person suites in old wing, some of which is done by student workers; at the time, the suite-type design is unusual and innovative
  • Most of the renovation work is funded by the deceased Murray Sells of Sells Petroleum Corp. in Dallas.  Plans are drawn up primarily by JBU students with approval from the Building Construction & Design Dept.  Architect: Paul Young, Jr. of Fayetteville.
  • 2nd phase of ground-breaking is for construction of entirely new wing and new entrance


  • JBU receives final approval from the regional office of Housing and Home Finance Agency in Fort Worth, Texas, to distribute the plans for the new $500,000 Men’s Dormitory.  The new dormitory is to be constructed on the east side of the campus and will be a U-shaped building with the present J. Alvin Brown Hall as the north section.
  • The first phase of construction is scheduled for completion in the summer of 1961 and will house 138 men.


  • March 3 – The JBU Board of Trustees adopt a five year development plan that includes the completion of the final wing of the J. Alvin Brown Men’s Dormitory
  • May 27- The building is rededicated after commencement
  • Added a 2nd story, increasing capacity to 240, including an RD apartment. 
  • Much of the designing and construction was done by building construction and design majors and minors. 
  • All suites had access to outdoors, connected by metal-railed balconies across the levels
  • Atrium was open-air, had open view downhill to where modern townhouses are located
  • New amenities include T.V. plugs, an intercom system connected to the office, sofas, chairs, lamps tables, a laundry room, a fire detective system and air conditioning 


  • While students were still prohibited to run their radios in J Alvin, two electrical engineering students wired their room so that when their door was opened, it tripped their radio circuit…and they were never caught.


  • Final wing completed during summer of 1964. Ends up with its modern U-shape (housing over 240 men)
  • April 24 – All dorms on campus hold open house. In J. Alvin Brown Hall, awards were given per suite. Boxes of chocolates were given to—Suite 34 for being the neatest suite for the year; Suite 24, for being neatest for the evening; Suite 14 received 2nd prize for neatness; Suite 34, for the most
    original décor of the evening.J. Alvin Renovation Project


  • November – The J. Alvin Dorm Council submits list to administration on what residents would like to see changed in the building; renovations are proposed. However, on November 6, a prank (or act of revenge) is conducted on suite 17. The bathroom floor drains are covered and the faucets are turned on, flooding the lobby, hall and bathroom with an inch of water. The padding underneath the carpets in some of the rooms are ruined, several textbooks are socked and one student looses a hundred record albums to water damage. The proposed renovations are put on hold.


  • President agrees to renovations in J. Alvin. Renovations include putting carpet into all the suite hallways, building some telephone booths for on-campus lines in the lobby, putting doors on existing telephone booths, and creating a mini-Chapel next to the main office. 


  • July 22 - installment of new telephone system, giving each suite its own phone; new lavatory tops and lights among redecoration plans for bathrooms
  • Students asked “What’s your favorite thing about on-campus living?” J. Alvin residents responded with 1) “The TV room always being on MTV” 2) “The suites, because you get to know everyone better” and 3) “Nothing until it cools off”


  • Renovation plans for J. Alvin are authorized by the board of trustees
  • Ideas gathered from residents, Student Life, and Siloam architect/part-time faculty Ken Emanuelson;J. Alvin Renovation Project
  • Designed to be focal point of both planned and unplanned activities, complete with trees, balconies, lounges, white lights, a glass elevator, and a weight training room;
  • Planned additions include meeting room for seminars/discussions, recreation/snack-bar area, weight room, sauna bath facilities
  • Furniture is delivered but is the wrong color. New furniture in a lighter color is ordered, but delivered to Bob Jones University (BJU). When the furniture finally arrives at J. Alvin, it is deemed “uncomfortable.” 
  • Jerome Brown (son of J. Alvin Brown) founds the “J. Alvin and Mabel Brown Memorial Scholarship Fund”


  • April 1 – $1 million renovation begins to cover the atrium, which, when newly covered in “Holiday-Inn-style”, is known as the Alvindome
  • Complete renovation of heating, plumbing, installation of air conditioning; Open central courtyard becomes 2-story sunlit atrium, closed off to back end of campus[xliii]
  • Completed by Nabholz Construction Co. of Little Rock, AR, and overseen by firm employee Mr. David Williamson (’76 alumnus).
  • Construction supervisor, George Conley notes that “It seems the guys here (J.Alvin) have better manners; we’ve had no problems with thievery….at UCA and Hendrix College in Conway, things disappeared.”
  • October 25 - Dedication of the new renovation during 1985 Homecoming. Jerome Brown ’35 (son of J. Alvin Brown) and his wife Grace Brown ’36 are present for the ribbon-cutting ceremony 


  • February – Weight room renovations
  • 31 rooms renovated during the summer, including new furniture and paintJ. Alvin Renovation Project


  • $500,000 donation given to renovate the bathrooms and put carpets into the suites (previously suites were tiled)


  • April 8 – Residence life issues a memo to all J. Alvin Dorm residents mandating a policy against student-built lofts. J. Alvin residents respond with strong protests, submitting a petition with 173 signatures to continue allowing lofts


  • $1.3 million renovation to the HVAC
  • September 2 – J. Alvin receives $40,000 in new furniture


  • The inner rooms to each suite is taken out to make individual lobbies


  • June  – houses women for first time in building’s history (summer term)


  • Summer  – after rough treatment from the summer camps the previous two years, J. Alvin gets new furniture, new paint, carpet shampooing, generic “makeover”…returning residents note that newcomers will have to wait a few months to get to know the “J Alvin smell.”


  • An anonymous $3 million lead gift goes to the renovation of J. Alvin. The total cost of the renovation will be $5.5 million. The university administration explains that restoring the building will cost less than razing the dorm and building comparable new housing.

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