Beneath the labs’ floor: Memorial Hall celebrates its 100th anniversary

Sign for the 100th anniversary's for the University of New Brunswick Memorial Hall. (Daniel Salas/AQ)

On Sept. 8, the University of New Brunswick (UNB) commemorated Memorial Hall’s 100th Anniversary with music by the Alex Bailey Swing Band, a BBQ and more.

This building has been at the centre of the arts scene and history of Fredericton since 1924.

Originally built to honour graduates and students who fought in World War I, it started as a building for different subjects such as science, physics and engineering. But over the years, Memorial Hall housed the UNB Arts Centre and the Centre for Musical Art.

Memorial Hall, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton N.B. Black and white photo. (By Valentine and Sons)

“It’s a really unique building. It’s very much an artistic space for the whole community,” said Richard Hornsby, director of the Centre for Musical Arts at UNB.

“There isn’t another performance space like it in Fredericton.”

He said during the 50s and 60s most of these spaces were biology and science labs. But when the university was renovating Memorial Hall, he asked to remove the cold tiles and leave the wooden floors below.

As the university did so, staff would find burn marks presumably caused when students spilt chemicals on the wood floor. However, Hornsby decided to keep it because it’s part of the history of the building.

Hornsby said alumni come visit Memorial Hall even though these spaces don’t have the same uses. To him, it’s gratifying to know that people feel an attachment to the building.

As director of the Centre of Musical Arts, he wants to give the chance to his students to pursue what interests them.

“Being in different plays at Memorial Hall teaches you that there’s always a start and finish of something,” said Armin Panjwani, a fourth-year student at UNB.

Panjwani said that as a drama student you spend most of your time at Memorial Hall, to the point “you get to know every part” of it. She added it became her “second home” and when a student visits for the first time they already feel like a part of the family.

She said Memorial Hall looks “like a different world” every time they set things up for different plays.

“That’s the beauty of that hall,” said Panjwani. “You can expect anything but once you are there you find something completely different.”