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Icons Among Us: Myles Standish Hall

A stylish hotel became a student dorm 60 years ago

| From BU Today | By Robin Berghaus

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The video above journeys through time, traveling from the unique vantage offered by Myles Standish Hall.

Daryl Healea, a residence hall director for Myles Standish Hall from 2001 to 2005, became interested in the building’s past because of all the people returning to visit.

“They shared stories about their times here,” says Healea (STH’01, SED’10), now Residence Life assistant director for student and staff development. “Myles Standish has a special history.”

For more than a year, Healea researched that history, compiling his findings with archival photos to create the three plaques mounted in the lobby, where students and staff pass them on their way home or to class, to pick up mail, or to eat at the dining hall. The plaques identify the historical figure Myles Standish, trace its early years as a fancy hotel, and mark its transition to a BU residence hall.

“Captain Myles Standish was an officer hired by the Pilgrims as military advisor for Plymouth Colony,” says Healea. “It’s fitting that this residence, home to many students embarking on a life-transforming adventure in education, bears the name of a great American pioneer.”

“The Back Bay area where Myles Standish Hall stands was once uninhabitable salt marsh,” he says. “After it was filled in, architect Arthur Bowditch, who designed other prominent Boston buildings, such as the Paramount Theatre, was granted a building permit in 1925 to begin construction on the Myles Standish hotel.”

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Myles Standish was a posh place to be seen, home to lavish balls, society weddings, and political functions. It was also a place to lay low.

“During Prohibition, two speakeasies operated in the basement event rooms, which still exist,” Healea says. “What’s a bit ironic is that Daniel L. Marsh (STH’08, Hon.’53), the fourth president of Boston University, who purchased the hotel in 1949, was an ardent Prohibitionist, very against alcohol. So he was able to capture Myles Standish for his Prohibitionist ways.

“But I suspect some alcohol has been consumed in the building since then.”

Healea dug up newspaper articles mentioning Myles happenings, protests and a food fight among them. He learned about the famous and infamous people who walked the halls, from Babe Ruth and Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS’55, Hon.’59) to radio shock-jock Howard Stern (COM’76). BU’s student-run radio station WTBU, which operated out of the first floor of Myles and the Myles Annex from 1969 to1997, claims to be the first station to fire Stern — after he ran a segment called “Making the Bishop Blush” on his show King Schmaltz Bagel Hour.

“Students, both young and old, will always remember this building,” says Healea. “It’s one of the few on campus that ties everybody together.”

For more from the Icons Among Us series, visit BU Today

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