Throughout the past century, Sarah Brunet Memorial Hall has been used for more purposes than one. It has been renovated and refitted to house several different departments - all of which were only there temporarily - yet has not been assigned a definitive department of its own. Renovations to the orphan building ceased in the mid-1980’s and since then, Sarah Brunet has assumed an unpredictable identity.
Sarah Brunet Hall, previously named the Refectory, is one of the University’s original buildings. It sits across from the International Center and until recently this year, served as the Office of Admissions. The construction of the Refectory began in July of 1913 following the relocation of Richmond College to a larger campus. Ralph Adams Cram was the architectural genius behind the design of the Refectory and the other Collegiate Gothic style buildings on campus. His face, and his characteristic round glasses, can even be seen above the building’s entrance. The original construction lasted over one year - finishing in August of 1914 - and cost nearly $46,000.
Sarah Brunet earned its name after Sarah W. Brunet of Norfolk, Virginia who endowed a scholarship at Richmond College, leaving behind several real estate holdings to Richmond in her will. After she passed away in 1888, the institution created a memorial in recognition of her generous donations. The Refectory was officially named Sarah Brunet Memorial Hall in early June of 1924, continuing to serve as the men’s dining facility.
The Refectory first served as Richmond College’s dining hall for men, with the very first meal being served on September 14th, 1914. Until the current Heilman Dining Center was built in 1982, male and female students ate in separate buildings. As the student body grew, Richmond recognized that the University needed a larger dining facility which would house both men and women. The decision to build a new dining area occurred after it was determined that a complete renovation of the two buildings would be more expensive than the construction of an entirely new building. The September 9th, 1982 issue of The Collegian declared that the newly constructed Heilman Dining Center “Inspires awe, grief”. Students reacted with cautious enthusiasm and were quick to criticize the long lines, cold food, and overall design of the facility. In the years since, the Heilman Dining Center has won many awards for its innovative cuisine.
With the opening of the new dining facility, Sarah Brunet Hall was renovated to house the new alumni center, and this ‘85 renovation was the building’s most recent structural change. After the alumni center relocated to the current Jepson Alumni Center, Sarah Brunet served as the admissions and financial aid offices. Currently, while Richmond hall is under massive construction, Sarah Brunet is functioning as the home for the Psychology department and counseling program building.
So what’s next on the list for Sarah Brunet? It is unknown, but if history is a guide, it won’t be there for long.