In 1919 it was decided that Schuylkill Seminary needed a new building to house all of the offices required for the proper running of a college. The building Albright alumni would come to know as Masters Hall was completed in 1921, with the dedication occurring on September 15th. Even then there was a third floor, but it appears that the unusual outer stairwells were added later in the then Administration Building’s lifetime. Inspection and Survey Report 1 from the Insurance Company of North America dated to either 1940-41 states that “there are two stairways, both located near center of building, one being constructed of wood with ordinary wood doors, glass paneled, not self-closing, the other constructed of concrete and iron, with self-closing metal doors.” Those familiar with the modern hall would be hard pressed to reconcile this description with the rubber stairway that only leads to the second floor; if one wanted to reach the third floor now, the outer stairwells and the elevator are the only ways to do so.
Nonetheless, the third floor was used in the earliest days of the Administration Building. Initially, a male dormitory filled the floor, housing multiple young men and two fraternity living spaces for Alpha Pi Omega and Zeta Omega Epsilon. The second floor contained some classrooms and the library, which took up rooms 203-210 210 (“Horses Slept Where Scholars Ponder; Tower Clock Sacrificed to War Effort” Albrightian 12 March 1943). The ground floor consists of a few classrooms, administrative offices, and the Day Men’s lounge in room 103. Science labs, shortly after replaced by home economics labs, filled the basement level.
When the schools merged into Albright College in Reading, the bookstore moved to the first floor of the Administration Building. By 1946, the bookstore contained mailboxes as well, as one of these caught the building on fire on February 1st of that year. White Chapel had already caught on fire so often in the recent months that when the firemen were called, they rushed past the Administration Building to the chapel, leaving President Masters to put the fire out (“Fire!” Albrightian 12 February 1946). Prior to this, however, the building had several changes made to it, including the opening of a home economics café for day and boarding students to eat a homemade meal in and the addition of several classrooms to the second floor when the library moved to what is now Alumni Memorial Hall in 1936. Perhaps one of the more disruptive changes occurred during WWII when 35 young men training for the Army moved into the third floor, forcing the freshmen already living there to find other housing primarily with fraternities (“Army ‘Routs’ Freshmen” MS-005 folder 39). During this time, other residents made similar sacrifices in other buildings. The Insurance Company of North America Inspection report from 1940-41 gives a more comprehensive idea of the layout of the Administration Building in the early forties: the “third floor contains 19 dormitory rooms and one shower bathroom and toilet… no running water in dormitory rooms. Second floor contains ten class rooms. First floor contains administration offices and three class rooms. In basement there is domestic science room with gas ranges, faculty lounge, post office and book store … athletic office, small storage room and boiler room”.
Only a few years later, in 1948, the freshmen permanently relocated as the dorms in the third floor were converted into two offices and three classrooms. Male and female restrooms were added to the third floor at this point. The home economics clothing lab in one of the second floor classrooms also received a cosmetic update, with new floors and paint, that summer. This is the same year that the Psychological Service Center and Albrightian office moved into the basement of the Administration Building and the bookstore moved to Krause Hall (a student union building at the time, not the current dormitory). Three years later, music studios joined the eclectic offices in the basement. A rather humorous article from the Albrightian in 1952 mentions the labyrinthine design of the building and comments on the inconsistent size of the rooms, mentioning the large size of a psychology classroom in comparison to a room “only a few inches deep, containing only a bulletin board” (“Charlie’s Tour of Albright” The Albrightian 2 May 1952). ‘Charlie’ – signed “L.E.” also reminds students of the fire hazards of the building while poking fun at various classes and administration duties.
In 1954, however, the basement was only used for home economics, psychological service center, and publications offices. Four years after that, the modern language lab moved into the building. Howell Lewis Shay and Associates performed an assessment in 1961, trying to determine alternative uses for the Administration Building as the school was looking to build a new library-administration building (which would later become the F. Wilbur Gingrich Library). According to their report, the basement – which they called the ground floor – was being used for physics and geology classes. Two years after that, the building underwent yet another change in its classrooms as the language lab moved up a floor and the first floor housed accounting and statistics.
The building received its current name in 1964, when it became Harry V. Masters Hall in honor of President Masters, who retired earlier that year. The F. W. Gingrich Library, also renamed that year, officially became the new administration building, leaving Masters Hall with a little more room. This room was promptly filled as the physics and mathematics departments moved into the basement. The setup stayed roughly the same for the next few years, but the building was not without its excitement. In May of 1965, vandals broke a window in Masters Hall in an incident that likely was connected to other vandalism on campus at the time. A few years later, in 1969, a more pleasant diversion appeared in the shape of a temporary radioisotope lab on the lawn in front of the building.
Nearly a decade later, in 1977, the evening and continuing education departments moved into Masters as well. In 1981, Masters received a makeover and became the building we know it as today with the construction of the Humanities Common Room and a layout which ensured every faculty and staff member in the building had their own office. By 1991, the Albright Catalog guaranteed that the building complied with the new Americans with Disabilities Act passed the year before, mentioning the elevator still used by students and staff alike. In the early 2000s, Masters Room #8 – the large lecture hall in the basement – was renovated after a successful fundraising campaign that earned gifts from companies like Tyco Electronics.
2010 saw the experimental replacement of the classic wooden desks by modern rolling versions in room 204. These orange and green chairs with cup-holders, moving tables, and rounded bottoms were known as node chairs, and there was some debate as to whether these fun replacements would be found throughout the building in the next few years. This never happened and the chairs remain an oddity of the second floor classroom.