Surrounded by members of Belmont University’s Class of 2014, today Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher announced the names of the campus’ two new freshmen residence halls at an afternoon ribbon cutting ceremony. Adjoined by a central lobby, one hall is being named Patton Hall, in honor of longtime Trustee Carolyn Patton, while the other residence will be called Bear House, reflecting the site of a bear house that was located on Adelicia Acklen’s original property. Together, the six-story halls provide an additional 103,000 square feet of residence space for more than 400 Belmont freshmen.
“Belmont University continues to grow at a remarkable rate, with early enrollment numbers for the coming semester looking strong once again,” Fisher said. “It’s important that Belmont remains student-centered, placing our students’ needs first even as we experience significant enrollment increases. These new halls guarantee that Belmont will provide a unique and innovative space to welcome incoming classes into the heart of campus.”
Carolyn Patton, a 1958 alumna and current member of Belmont’s Board of Trustees, and her husband Clem are responsible for an endowed, merit-based scholarship that provides full tuition for four years to a student with an ACT of 29 who possesses strong leadership potential.
Mrs. Patton said, “Belmont has certainly grown since [I attended], but I am proud of the way it has held on to those qualities that I enjoyed in its early days. Clem and I believe that our country, and indeed the world, needs students in higher education to graduate not with just head knowledge but with the moral and spiritual foundation to become the wise and compassionate people that are so needed in the world of business, ministry, science and, especially, in day-to-day family and home life. We believe Belmont provides this foundation, and we want to help accomplish these goals.”
The other new residence hall provides a unique opportunity to revisit Belmont’s legendary history. When construction began on the new halls last summer, remnants of Adelicia Acklen’s original Bear House and Bowling Alley/Billiards Building were uncovered. Tucked beneath layers of asphalt, these two structures went unnoticed for nearly 100 years, providing those who knew of them little more than mystery as to their exact location and design.
Acklen, the original mistress of Belmont Mansion, designed and constructed an ornate octagonal house on the property of her estate to house her family’s pet bear. The only structure of its type in the United States, Belmont’s Bear House was based on a garden building from the Chateau de Versailles in France and reflected the classical style of the Mansion. After the Mansion was sold, the Bear House became part of Belmont College and Seminary, and later Ward-Belmont, before being razed sometime between 1928 and 1932.
Mark Brown, executive director of Belmont Mansion, said, “In calling this new residence hall ‘Bear House,’ Belmont helps keep Adelicia’s memory alive while also providing appropriate symbolism to the university’s mascot, the Bruin.”
In addition to offering more housing space, Patton Hall and Bear House provide a unique living-learning community lifestyle by placing first-year students in the heart of campus. Connected via an underground tunnel to Maple Hall, another freshman residence which opened last year, the new structure includes classroom space on the bottom level to accommodate First Year Seminar courses. The building also continues Belmont’s initiatives toward environmental sustainability with water source heat pumps and air conditioning as well as green flooring and paint. Positioned behind Heron and Pembroke Halls and facing the university’s soccer field, the halls sport a tower staircase near the center of the overall structure that is topped by a cupola, providing an architectural nod to Belmont’s signature Bell Tower.
Nashville-based architect Earl Swensson Associates oversaw building plans, and R.C. Mathews was the contractor on the year-long project.