Swigart Hall – Juniata’s musical arts building
Swigart Hall has a long and unexpected history. The college acquired it in 1950 as one of the many buildings added to the campus during Calvert Ellis’s presidency, at which point it became an important asset to Juniata’s music department. However, before the building became Swigart Hall, it served other purposes dependent on the needs of the college and community.
The building was originally a home called “Cassady House.” The Reverend John Cassady built it in 1921 and lived there for eight years. In 1929, Cassady sold his house for use as an orphanage. The original Orphans’ Home was built in 1882 and stood in the current location of Rosenberger Auditorium. However, when Cloister was built in 1928, having the Orphans’ Home in this spot became less desirable, because the building was unattractive and stood immediately next to the new dorm. For this reason, the college demolished the Orphans’ Home the following year, leaving the orphans who had lived there with no home. It was at this point that Cassady sold his house to the Orphans’ Home.
When the Orphans’ Home closed during the 1940s, Francis McSherry bought the building and made it a private residence. McSherry, president of the J. C. Blair Company, was connected to Juniata College through his children, five of whom attended Juniata. He lived there until early 1950, when he sold the building to the college for use as a music building.
A gift from W. Emmert Swigart made the acquisition of what came to be Swigart Hall possible. Swigart and his family had long been involved with Juniata College. He was an alumnus, having graduated from Juniata in 1906. Swigart, also involved with Juniata’s Alumni Association, served both as its secretary-treasurer and as its president at different points in time. Swigart’s father, William J. Swigart, was a member of both the Board of Trustees and the faculty at Juniata, and Swigart had two sons and three daughters who went to Juniata. The college clearly mattered to the Swigarts, so when he died in December of 1949 from a heart attack, he left Juniata College a gift of $28,000. He specifically asked that the college use the money to buy a music building and that they name the building after his family. Therefore, when Juniata purchased McSherry’s house, it became a music building renamed “Swigart Hall.”
Swigart thought about the future of Swigart Hall, as well, because when he left Juniata College the money for the purchase of the building, he asked that some of the leftover money be set aside to help pay for later renovations. That far-sighted gift enabled the 1964, renovations. The architect for the project was Hunter, Campbell, and Rea, a company based in Altoona, and the builder who did the work on Swigart Hall was Paul E. Hickes. The project cost $35,000. These renovations significantly changed the look of the building. It had been brown brick, but at this time it was painted white. There was also originally a front porch on the building, which was removed. The renovations improved the recital room on the first floor and enlarged the first floor rehearsal room.
Swigart Hall was and continues to be useful to Juniata’s music program. Before the college acquired it, the music department had been using a small frame building with only ten rooms. Swigart Hall includes many more rooms to serve the music department, including offices for the music faculty, practice rooms for student musicians, classrooms for music classes, and teaching studios for music lessons. There are also larger rooms on the ground floor that the music department can use for rehearsals or recitals. In addition, the building has a basement, which the college originally intended to use for storage and the music library, but which now also boasts a percussion studio.
Emily Reinl ‘16
Ellis, Charles C. Juniata College: The History of Seventy Years, 1876-1946. Elgin: Brethren Publishing House, 1947.
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Juniata College. "Juniata's Educational Heritage." Juniata College Catalog. Accessed February 1, 2014. http://www.juniata.edu/services/catalog/section.html?s1=heritage&s2=index.
Kaylor, Earl C., Jr. Juniata College: Uncommon Vision, Uncommon Loyalty. Huntingdon: Juniata College Press, 2001.
"Music Hall Acquired." Juniata College Bulletin, Winter 1950, 1-2.
"Remodel Swigart Music Hall." Juniata College Bulletin, Summer 1964, 25.