Mar 282013

Author: Kelsey Contouris

Take a walk around Colorado State University’s famous Oval and you will see some of the oldest structures on campus. Each building has its own story, and like the books in the library, they preserve decades and decades of history. My most recent exploration took me to one of the more peculiar of such buildings: Johnson Hall.

Located on the southeast corner of the Oval, Johnson Hall was built in 1935 and originally housed the Student Union. Its namesake, S. Arthur Johnson, was the first Dean of Students and an entomology professor. The building is now home to several administrative offices and classrooms.

I had always been curious about Johnson Hall. Its architecture resembles few other buildings on campus – the rounded portions of the exterior, arching doorways and castle-like appearance makes it stand out from its Oval counterparts.

The south entrance of Johnson Hall

The south entrance of Johnson Hall

I first entered Johnson Hall from the south side, which is where signs direct students to go if they are looking for Room 222. I was greeted by a somewhat odd commons area. The scattered stone benches looked better suited for the outdoors, as did the roofed, window-like structure jutting out from the wall separating the commons and a small classroom.

The main focal point of the commons, however, is a sprawling timeline mural on the north wall that details the origins of CSU’s most significant buildings, from the humble Claim Building erected in 1874 to the Rocky Mountain Regional Bio-containment Lab constructed in 2007. I stopped for a while and studied the timeline, taking pictures of the plaques and peering into the university’s rich architectural history. I urge you to go take a look at it if you’re interested in when and why much of CSU was developed.

The Johnson Commons

The south commons area

While I was in the commons, I figured I might as well see what was so special about Room 222, considering the prominent signage outside and in. Unsure if a class was in session, I opened the door cautiously. Luckily, the room was empty. And dark. And massive – much more so than I had imagined. And, unlike most large lecture halls, it was flat. I shot the best photo I could considering the lack of light and went back out into the commons.

The end of the dark, creepy hallway

The end of the dark, creepy hallway

On the west side of the commons I saw a doorway leading to the restrooms. I entered it, and to my right was a long hallway so dark that I could barely make out the signs on the doors. Slightly creeped-out and armed with only the flash of my camera, I made my way through it. The hallway opened up into an area that looked like it had been untouched for years – light from the single window exposed dusty cabinets, while the opposite wall was littered with the remains of old posters. The hallway seemed to lead to a dead end – a random half-door atop a small set of stairs. Thoroughly confused and afraid of getting lost, I decided it was time to leave the dark hallway and see what I could find on the north side of the building.

Unsure of how to access the north side from the interior of Johnson Hall, I went outside and walked around the building. Upon going in and seeing doorways to several offices and hallways leading to classrooms, I felt more at ease. That changed, however, when I started to venture up the stairs.

The narrow, twisting stairway took me to the second floor, which opened up to an office-like space. Not wanting to confuse the guy at the desk with my tourist-like photography, I quickly left and continued up the stairs. The third floor had some restrooms and a door that led to a space overlooking the office-like area. Surprisingly though, the stairs kept going. I followed them until they led me to nothing but a mysterious door – cracked open, yet fitted with a heavy-duty lock. In hindsight, I wish I had tried to peer inside, but my uneasiness got the best of me again and I made my way back to the first floor.

The locked door at the top of the stairs

The locked door at the top of the stairs

Aside from somehow finding another entrance to Room 222, there was not much else to see in Johnson Hall. I’m sure there are more discoveries lurking in its dark rooms and passageways, but that is an exploration for another day (and a braver student). I look forward to venturing through more of CSU’s oldest buildings – especially Ammons Hall, considering the spooky rumors I’ve heard.

Maybe I’ll take a friend with me on that one.

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