It may be hard to believe that UCLA’s bustling Westwood campus started out with just four buildings — the Library, Royce Hall, the Physics Building and the Chemistry Building — built around a quadrangular courtyard still known to students as “the quad.”
Today, the Westwood campus boasts nearly 200 buildings spread across 419 acres. Royce’s moniker remains. But the Library has been renamed Powell Library Building; the Physics Building now houses humanities and is called Kaplan Hall; and the Chemistry Building, home to anthropology, sociology and other departments, is now called Haines Hall. Buildings added in the early 1930s include the Education Building (now Moore Hall), Kerckhoff Hall and Mira Hershey Hall; while the ’40s postwar construction boom yielded Schoenberg Hall, Perloff Hall, Bunche Hall and the Life Sciences Building, among others. Today, there’s always a campus building under construction or renovation. It’s part of what makes UCLA what it is: a hive of learning, a place that’s always reinventing itself to meet the moment.
But it turns out that a few of these historic buildings have tales to tell. Here, we reveal the untold stories from their past — and present — lives.
ROYCE HALL | Year opened: 1929
The most recognized (and Instagrammed) building on campus. Seven stories high. Built in the Italian Romanesque style. The building’s brickwork, towers and porticos are inspired by the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio in Milan.
1. Royce Hall is named in honor of California-born philosopher Josiah Royce, who graduated from UC Berkeley in 1875 and was one of the first four people to earn a doctorate in philosophy from Johns Hopkins University. He would go on to teach at Johns Hopkins and Harvard.
2. In 1932, Albert Einstein addresses students.
3. Jimmy Dorsey’s band is among the early acts to perform in Royce; later artists include Mikhail Baryshnikov, Leonard Bernstein, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and the New York Philharmonic.
4. A 1998 star-studded event held to celebrate the hall’s reopening after the 1994 Northridge earthquake features the likes of Carol Burnett, James Galway, Don Henley, John Lithgow, Sidney Poitier and Paul Simon.
5. Royce starts out as the main classroom facility of UCLA, but today it’s best known for its legendary acoustics. The concert hall boasts 1,836 seats and a state-of-the-art sound system.
POWELL LIBRARY | Year opened: 1929
Located across the quad from Royce. Also influenced by Italian Romanesque architecture, with Moorish elements added to pay homage to California’s Spanish culture. Originally known as Library Hall; renamed in 1966 in honor of Lawrence Clark Powell, UCLA’s chief librarian from 1944 to 1961.
1. In 1949, 28-year-old grad student Charles Glenn tries to steal Bay Psalm Book, a 1640 tome worth $100,000, on display as part of a Washington’s Birthday exhibit. Glenn hides in the library until closing, grabs the book from the glass display case and jumps out a window — only to be nabbed by UCLA police and jailed. Glenn claims it was part of an initiation rite for a secret society. He is expelled.
2. One of its defining features: a 45-foot-high rotunda in the reading room. The interior is graced with high arched star-patterned ceilings crafted of wood, tall windows; exquisite brickwork and mosaic tile. The stairway has carved owls on the newel posts and Bruin bear heads on the balustrade.
3. In 1992, Powell Library is emptied to undergo seismic retrofitting. Books are moved to “Towell” — a temporary tent-like structure erected near the bottom of Janss Steps — for five years.
4. Author Ray Bradbury works on an early draft of Fahrenheit 451 in Powell in the late 1940s and early 1950s, using typewriters available for rent. He winds up in the basement, spending 10 cents per half-hour for the typewriter — for a grand total of $9.80 over nine days — to bang out The Fireman, a novella, which will later be fleshed out into Fahrenheit 451. In 2008, UCLA dedicates a plaque to Bradbury outside Room 60, where the UCLA Center for Advancement of Teaching is now located.
KERCKHOFF HALL | Year opened: 1931
Situated in the middle between North and South campus, it resembles a castle with its pointed arches, stained glass windows and spires. The Gothic architecture–style building often moonlights as a set for movies and TV shows.
1. The “Women’s Smoking Room” on the third floor is now the co-ed Louise Kerckhoff Study Lounge. Its bay window still contains stained-glass depictions of the seals of five legendary women’s colleges — Elmira, Bryn Mawr, Vassar, Mount Holyoke and Wellesley.
2. Named after lumber and energy magnate William G. Kerckhoff, who helped bring electricity to California. Before his death, Kerckhoff tells his wife, Louise, that he wishes to provide funds to build UCLA’s student union. She donates more than $800,000 toward construction.
3. Today, the former student union building houses ASUCLA clubs and student government offices, a busy coffeehouse, study lounges, an art gallery, meeting rooms and the Charles E. Young Grand Salon, which serves as a venue for receptions and other events.
4. As noted earlier, Kerckhoff has served as a set for myriad movies and TV shows, but its patio and coffeehouse have received more than its fair share of close-ups, too. Action!
• In Legally Blonde (2001), plucky Elle Woods picks up her class schedule at Harvard Law School (read: Kerckhoff patio).
• In Scream 2 (1997), two characters discuss how to create a successful sequel to a horror flick at the coffeehouse.
• In the biopic Oppenheimer (2023), the titular character runs through the rain across Kerckhoff patio to get to Danish physicist Niels Bohr’s lecture.
• In the first season of HBO’s The Sex Lives of College Girls (2021), Kimberly Finkle works at “Sips” coffee shop at fictional Essex College in Vermont.
HERSHEY HALL | Year opened: 1931
A two-story, Italian renaissance-style building tucked away near the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden, behind the La Kretz Botany Building and Terasaki Life Sciences. Notable flourishes include curved arches on the outside and a wood-paneled ceiling, ornate wall sconces and antique furniture inside.
1. Philanthropist Almira Hershey, a distant relative of famed chocolatier Milton Hershey, leaves $300,000 in her will to build the first on-campus residence hall for women. At the time of its opening, female students are not allowed to live independently off campus.
2. When a man is found hiding under a bed after hours during the women only era, the resident has to write a 1,000-word essay; two other women involved in the caper are assigned 500-word essays. The essays are posted on the hall bulletin board; the man is deemed a permanent “persona non grata” in Hershey.
3. Among the rules for the initial 137 female students: no curlers in the cafeteria, and no male visitors except Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Not surprisingly, this latter rule leads to grouchy comparisons to a convent. In 1969, Hershey Hall becomes a coed graduate student dormitory. In 1997, it gets converted into office space.
From an archived scrapbook entry, circa the late1930s, called “I live at Hershey”:
I live at Hershey Hall, so pity me,
There’s not a male in this darn nunnery,
And every night at eight they lock the door,
I wonder why the heck I came here for
I’m going to take a train and homeward ride,
Or else I’ll bust this darn place open wide,
I’m going to drink and smoke and swear
What the heck!
Hail Hershey Hall!
BUNCHE HALL | Year opened: 1964
When it makes its debut, Bunche Hall ushers in the era of UCLA’s modern high-rise buildings. It is named after Bruin icon Ralph Bunche.
1. Nicknamed “The Waffle,” for its rectangular shape and windows. A shorter adjoining building, where social sciences offices are located, forms a reverse L shape.
2. In the history department’s student lounge on the sixth floor, a mural, commissioned in 1975 and depicting an apocalyptic scene of the Charles E. Young Research Library in the future, covers one wall from floor to ceiling. It’s one of the last works by acclaimed muralist and UCLA graduate Terry Schoonhoven and the L.A. Fine Arts Squad, the street art group he helped found.
3. Bruins who were students up to the late 1990s will recall that the Henry J. Bruman Maps and Government Information Library, a literal treasure trove of maps, was located in the basement of Bunche. It has since been relocated to the Research Library and the Southern Regional Library Facility; most of its collections are now available online.
4. Between the two structures is Palm Court, an ersatz tropical oasis (minus the classroom doors). The lush open-air atrium is full of palm trees and other green flora.
PAULEY PAVILION | Year opened: 1965
Best known as a shrine to legendary Coach John Wooden and his 10 UCLA national championship–winning basketball teams; in 2003, the basketball floor was named the John and Nell Wooden Court.
1. Though long associated with Wooden, the building is actually named for Edwin W. Pauley, a former University of California Regent whose donation was a major factor in the venue’s birth.
2. “Wooden Way,” featuring Coach Wooden memorabilia, is added in the east concourse during a 2010–12 renovation. The wood paneling on the wall is taken from the old basketball floor.
PAULEY PAVILION | Events
Pauley instantly becomes a hive for high-profile events.
UCLA presents an honorary law degree to Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II.
Bob Hope films an episode of The Bob Hope Show in which he plays a UCLA football recruit who refuses to suit up.
The gymnastics competitions of the 1984 Olympics are held. The U.S. men’s team wins gold for the very first time.
Presidential candidates George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis square off in their second and final debate in October.
1989 & 1991
Ella Fitzgerald accepts the 1989 Gershwin Award at Spring Sing; Ray Charles wins the award in 1991.
The MTV Video Music Awards is held.
The Dalai Lama speaks to students during a three-day visit to campus.
The 2001 Jeopardy! College Championship is taped here.
Oprah Winfrey is among the celebrities at a presidential campaign rally for Barack Obama.
Jay-Z performs in a concert that includes a surprise appearance by Rihanna.
Read more from UCLA Magazine’s Fall 2023 issue.