Arguably the most charming of all UCLA buildings, Mira Hershey Hall was constructed in 1931 to serve the residential needs of UCLA’s women students.
When UCLA’s Westwood campus opened in 1929, it had only four buildings, all on the main quad. Because women were not permitted to live independently off campus, as male students could, providing on-campus housing for women was a high priority. So when, in 1931, UCLA added two new buildings, one was a women’s dormitory. (The other was Kerckhoff Hall, the student union.)
Who was Mira Hershey?
When Mira Hershey died in 1930 at the age of 86, she left in her will $300,000 to create the first women’s residence on the UCLA campus. Hershey Hall opened in October 1931, housing 137 female students.
Hershey was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and attended Pennsylvania Female College. From her father she inherited a substantial fortune, which she increased considerably through her business skills.
Hershey moved to Los Angeles in 1894 and became a prominent community leader. Among other properties, she owned the Hollywood Hotel, which she developed into a center of Hollywood society.
In 1929, Hershey’s attorney, visiting Regent Edward Dickson, inquired about an architectural plan for the future UCLA campus that was hanging above Dickson’s desk. At this time, work was in progress on the four original campus buildings: Royce Hall; The Library (now Powell Library); the Chemistry and Geology Building (now Haines Hall); and the Physics and Biology Building (now Kaplan Hall). However, the university had not undertaken the construction of dormitories. This was particularly problematic for women, who were not permitted to live independently off campus, as male students could. Hershey’s bequest to UCLA included not only the money for the dormitory, but also a loan fund for needy students.
What makes Hershey Hall special?
Once the formal entry foyer for Hershey Hall, this space retains its 1930s character. It features a wood-paneled ceiling, ornate wall sconces, a handsome antique table original to the building, a display of historic imagery related to Mira Hershey Hall, and a bank of small mailboxes dating to the time when Mira Hershey Hall served as UCLA’s women’s dormitory. The size and ambience of the Foyer make it special for small receptions and also as a gathering spot for events scheduled in the Salon, to which it is adjacent.
The University of California’s Southern Branch, later called UCLA, opens in Westwood with four buildings: Royce Hall, The Library (now Powell Library), Chemistry and Geology Building (now Haines Hall). Physics and Biology Building (now Kaplan Hall)
Kerckhoff Hall (student union) opens in January. Mira Hershey Hall (women’s dormitory) opens in October for 137 residents
West Wing Addition to Mira Hershey Hall opens for male students. Together, both wings can accommodate 327 residents.
The university proposes turning Hershey Hall into a graduate dormitory. Women residents protest against the coed arrangement.
Mira Hershey Hall becomes coed housing for graduate students
The Northridge earthquake causes considerable damage to the West Wing addition; it is deemed unsafe for residential use.
West Wing demolished
Terasaki Life Sciences Building opens
Mira Hershey Hall reopens for administrative uses in the Life Sciences following seismic reinforcement, repairs, and upgrades.
- Mira Hershey Hall was the first building funded by a woman philanthropist and named for her
- Women residents of Mira Hershey Hall were not allowed to enter the residence’s cafeteria wearing curlers
- Men visiting women in Mira Hershey Hall could only do so on Sundays from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
- Mira Hershey was related to Milton S. Hershey, who created the Hershey’s chocolate empire in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the city where Mira Hershey was born
- During the 1965 protest against making Hershey Hall a graduate coed residence, slogans of the women included “We love men, but not for breakfast” and “Don’t make our nunnery a brewery”
- Hershey Hall Architect Douglas McLelland departed from the Romanesque style of the original four campus buildings and from the Gothic Revival style of Kerckhoff Hall, designing an Italian Renaissance-style building, light, even feminine in feeling