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Now & Then
For Ceremony and Service
Meany Hall, for years the UW's primary auditorium, was built for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition held on campus in 1909. After the regional earthquake of April 29, 1965, twisted its foundation and loosened its cornice, the old hall was torn down. A new Meany Hall was built, and the greensward that once faced it was replaced with the tiles of "Red Square."

spacer Photo PAUL DORPAT
Meany Hall on the University of Washington campus was — and still is — named for a red-headed history professor who arrived in Seattle as a tall and slender 15-year-old.

Edmond Meany's elaborate and legendary connections with the university began ceremonially with his graduation from it in 1885. Six years later, as a member of the Washington state Legislature, he was the prime mover behind the university leaving its downtown site on Denny's Knoll in 1895 for its new "Interlaken" campus.

In 1906, when a committee of Seattle's most prominent boomers visited the school with a request to make it over for the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, it was Meany who welcomed and promoted them. By then, he was a professor. The campus was given over to the Expo in part to get some funds out of the ordinarily reluctant Legislature for new permanent buildings. The largest of these was the auditorium seen here. A mere five years after the exposition, the school's regents broke tradition and reluctantly renamed the auditorium for the still very alive Edmond Meany after the students refused to call it anything else.

The long front steps of Meany Hall were the school's ceremonial stage. Here, class pictures were recorded, and, on an October night each year, the venerable "keeper of traditions" led freshmen in a torchlight ceremony: the recitation of the Ephebic Oath. With upraised hands, the new students, led by Meany, dedicated the education they were about to receive from the people of the state to the service of the state and of society.

A 72-year-old Edmond Meany died quickly in his campus office from a stroke in 1935. By then he also had a hotel and a mountain named for him.

Paul Dorpat specializes in historical photography and has published several books on early Seattle.

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