Leavitt Hall: Where the New Has Replaced the Old

Customs, Controversies, and Protests

On the spot currently occupied by Weyerhaeuser Hall once stood the Whitworth Dining Hall, which was later named Leavitt Hall. Originally built in 1944 due to the growing student body. Leavitt Hall became the gathering place for all students who lived on campus. Prior to 1944, students went for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the basement of McMillan Hall. Documents in the Whitworth archive state that Whitworth saw a 100% increase in enrollment in the spring semester of 1944 alone, which meant there was a pressing need for a larger dining area. This resulted in the construction of the Whitworth Dining Hall, which was designed by Carlson & James Architects.

In 1961, after having made plans to expand the building, Whitworth received a donation of $50,000, which was over two-thirds of the money needed for the expansion, from Mr. Dave Barnes Leavitt from Berkeley, California. Mr. Leavitt donated this money to Whitworth in 1959 in memory of his late wife Mrs. Aubrey Leavitt. In return, he wanted the building to be renamed after her, to which the college agreed. However, some confusing reports ensued which led Mr. Leavitt to believe that the building would not be renamed after his wife after all. After which, Mr. Leavitt’s father, the Reverend Wade Barnes, sent a rather annoyed letter to Whitworth. As confusion was resolved, and a very apologetic letter submitted by Whitworth President, Dr. Warren, the building was officially renamed Leavitt Hall. The expansion was conducted by architect firm Carlson & James and finished in 1961. There was now space for over 400 students to dine, as well as a large lobby.

Aside from the regular food services that Leavitt hosted for 56 years, it also was a place of many controversies and cultural changes throughout the years. In the 1950's Whitworth students began challenging the dress code which "required men to wear ties and women to wear nylon stockings and dress shoes to dinner," though only on Sundays. Women were also expected to stand at every other chair and wait for a male student to sit by them and help them be seated.

In 1964, Leavitt Hall was subjected to a food protest where five male students set up a large demonstration against the food quality which forced the university to hire SAGA Food Services. A program called Nutrition 1985, conceived by students in 1975 out of want to be conscious about the environment, gained national attention. It was a 10-year program that sought to raise awareness for healthy eating, and being less wasteful. At one point amount of food that students were throwing away was put on display.

Later, in 1983, Whitworth received a $50,000 donation from the SAGA Corporation to renovate the interior and upgrade the serving area in order to provide a more pleasant atmosphere whilst dining. This donation was but one of many donated by SAGA to upgrade and expand Leavitt Hall. A satirical article in the 1976-1977 Whitworthian stated that "rumor had it that Saga intended to buy $40,000 worth of cotton balls and serve them to students to stick in their ears (students without ears could stick them where they wanted). But that idea was scrapped for the more permanent solution to noise." However, this idea did not stick for very long, and so instead they decided to lower the ceiling which was probably a safer decision.

Even though the building was continuously renovated, expanded, and renewed, people were not always happy with how the Whitworth dining services operated and changed. As stated in the 1976-1977 Whitworthian "Students react to the new schedule with respect to when they eat. The 10:00 am lunch is popular among those who miss breakfast and want to avoid the lines. For those who eat lunch at 12:00, lines are still 'a bitch.'" In 2000, after a long debate whether to renovate it or to demolish it and build a new building, Leavitt Hall was torn down to make space for what became Weyerhaeuser Hall and the new dining hall was located in the Hixson Union building.