Stafford, Cramer halls remembered for sense of community

Thursday, August 26, 2010 | 6:47 p.m. CDT; updated 9:44 a.m. CDT, Friday, August 27, 2010
Demolition of Stafford Hall began Thursday. The hall, built in 1947, is being cleared to make room for a new hospital building.

COLUMBIA—Stafford Hall, built in 1947 and home to 200 students every year since, will soon be dust.    

Demolition to the MU residence hall began Thursday and might take up to a month to complete.


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Its removal will make way for a University Hospital expansion, said Jeffrey Hoelscher, MU Health Care spokesman.

Stafford's neighbor, Cramer Hall, is scheduled to be torn down beginning next month, Hoelscher said.

Stafford and Cramer, midsized residence halls in the Pershing area of campus, were each home to more than 200 students per year until they permanently closed after the spring 2010 semester, according to the department of residential life website.

Because of the confined workspace around Stafford and Cramer, the buildings will be leveled in sections, Hoelscher said.

First, the middle portion of each hall will be taken down. Then, the ends of the buildings will be pulled toward the center to complete the demolition.

Hoelscher said University Hospital has coordinated with the department of residential life to control the noise of the demolition and to mitigate the impact on students living nearby.

Cramer is set to be fully demolished in October.

Stafford and Cramer: A history

Built in 1947, Stafford and Cramer halls were named to honor two notable MU graduates: Richard Yeater Stafford and Floyd Bruce Cramer.

At the Oct. 4, 1952, dedication of the residence halls, the bulletin noted: “May their influence be ever felt by the young men and women who dwell in these halls which bear their names.”

Stafford, a native of Windsor, graduated from MU in 1938 with a degree in business administration. At the university, Stafford was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity and was active in several intramural sports.

 In June 1940, Stafford enlisted in the Marine Corps and participated in World War II combat until Oct. 11, 1942, when a Japanese sniper fatally wounded him.

According to the dedication bulletin, Stafford Hall was named after him “for the courage, leadership and heroism he displayed on the battlefields of World War II.”

Cramer was born on Feb. 19, 1877, in Clinton. His family moved to Nevada, Mo., where his father worked as a merchant.

Cramer entered MU in the fall of 1896 and graduated in June 1898 with an undergraduate degree in law. While a student, Cramer was a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity and played halfback on the 1897 varsity football team.

Upon graduation, Cramer enlisted in the Hospital Corps of the Second Missouri Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the Spanish-American War. He was one of three MU student volunteers.

While a volunteer, Cramer contracted typhoid fever and died Sept. 8, 1898, at 21.

The dedication bulletin notes that Cramer Hall was dedicated to Cramer “for unselfish service given his country as a student volunteer in the Spanish-American War.”

Just as Stafford and Cramer served their country, their namesake residences halls served MU students for more than 60 years.

The university originally planned to renovate the halls as part of the first version of the Campus Master Plan, but a 2005 update looked at the possibility of losing the halls to make room for a hospital expansion, said Frankie Minor, director of residential life.

The department of residential life created contingency plans in case Stafford and Cramer were to close, Minor said. Increasing the number of beds in the Mid-Campus Housing Project and College Avenue, Graham and Defoe halls made up for the loss of beds in Stafford and Cramer.

Then, record numbers of freshmen enrolled in MU, prompting the department to use the halls longer than originally planned, Minor said.

“We got two more years of life out of them, so we were very happy,” he said.

Now, University Hospital will get new life from the land.

The hospital plans to build a new patient care tower in the area, which will house the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, including space for clinical services, such as cancer screening and radiation therapy, according to the MU Health Care website. The estimated completion date for the tower construction is early 2013.

Preserving the memory

The university dedicated the halls in 1952 with this promise:

“Modern, attractive, conveniently arranged, and well furnished, these residence halls give students a good place to live … and to develop a group spirit which satisfies the student’s desire for a sense of belonging.”

Most students just called them home.

Joshua Johnson, a residence hall coordinator for Stafford and Cramer halls during the 2009-10 school year, loved the lived-in feeling of the halls.

“You could feel the history of the buildings,” Johnson said. “You knew it was something special.”

He said the layout of the buildings created a strong sense of community. One long hall extended the length of each building, with bedrooms, lounges and community bathrooms on either side.

“People would just sit out there, chat, get to know each other,” he said. “I love when students get to know each other just because they brush their teeth next to each other in the morning."

Alicia Dolbashian lived in Cramer during her freshman year and Stafford her sophomore year. She said she embraced the buildings’ “quirks.”

“There were a few prominent qualities that gave these halls personality, like warped key lock doors, carpeted walls of the lounges and unbearably noisy AC units in each room,” she said.

“Unlike the accommodations of ID swipe locks and central air systems in the newly renovated halls, the old doors could stay ajar, the '50s carpet made for good conversation and the AC could keep your room as frigid as your heart desired.”

Former Stafford resident Christina Warren agreed.

“Lots of people prefer the new dorms on campus, but I always liked the older ones since they have so much character,” Warren said.

She also recalled the strong community feeling of the halls.

“There were always at least four games of catch going on in the courtyard and people always sunbathing,” she said. “Oddly enough, the smoking table was one of the biggest hang-out spots, even for nonsmokers.”

Warren also said she liked the convenience of having the 24-hour Pershing Commons right next door for last-minute printing of papers and late-night sandwich runs.

“I probably looked like a crazy person running to the computer lab in my PJs and shower shoes,” she said.

Although former residents are sad to see their beloved buildings torn down, parts of the halls will live on.

Two meeting rooms in the lower level of Pershing Commons are now named for Stafford and Cramer, Minor said.

Additionally, large stones from the exterior walls will be used in a landscaping retaining wall behind the new patient care tower and in the healing garden inside the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, Hoelscher said.

This is part of MU Health Care’s efforts to be environmentally friendly. The stones will be visible, and there might be a plaque to recognize them.

For Johnson, those stones helped build his community.

“As sad as I am to see them go, I’m very excited to see the campus change," he said.

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Jeff Clouse August 26, 2010 | 11:10 p.m.

I purchased a brick from the old Checkerdome/The Arena in St. Louis when they demolished it. I would love to have one from Cramer Hall, where I lived for much of 1989-1993. Any chance the University will sell some? Another great way to recycle, not to mention make a few bucks!

(Report Comment)
james conrad February 4, 2011 | 12:45 p.m.

i have been looking for a brick from the old arena so i can place it in my man cave, i pretty much grew up in the old checkerdome going to majority of the blues games if anybody knows where to find one please email me

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