Throwback Thursday – Garrett Conference Center and Student Union
CORRECTION: AN EARLIER VERSION OF THIS STORY CONTAINED INCORRECT INFORMATION ABOUT THE CURRENT STATUS OF GARRETT CONFERENCE CENTER. AS OF JUNE 24, 2021 THE BUILDING REMAINS STANDING AND IS SCHEDULED FOR DEMOLITION LATER IN THE SUMMER.
Last week, Throwback Thursday told the story of the College Heights Foundation Building, which was razed several weeks ago on the main campus at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. The 60-year-old Garrett Conference Center is about to be torn as well.
The university’s second president was Dr. Paul Loos Garrett, who served from 1937 until 1955. Back then the university was called Western Kentucky State College, and Dr. Garrett continued to grow the College Heights Foundation student loan fund, and secured the Public Works Administration to finish work on the Kentucky Building. The namesake of Garrett Conference Center, he passed away in 1955, just a couple years after it was dedicated.
The Garrett Conference Center was built to be a student union, a place where students could gather to eat, study and socialize between classes and after hours. It was designed by J. Maurice Ingram and John F. Wilson of Louisville and Lexington, with a $700,000 price tag in 1951.
The university experienced so much growth over the next decade that it called for an expansion by the early 1960s. Completed in 1965 for $1.2 million, the new air-conditioned student center was three times the size of the old space. It had two cafeterias to seat almost 700, 14 meeting rooms, three conference rooms and a ballroom that could seat a thousand people for banquets and dances.
Garrett had hangout spaces, ping pong tables, was home to Student Publications for decades, plus a Post Office and student bookstore. It was the center of campus for nearly 20 years until the campus grew into its new student union, Downing University Center, in 1970.