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Icons Among Us: Myles Standish Hall

A stylish hotel became a student dorm 60 years ago

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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.”

Robin Berghaus can be reached at berghaus@bu.edu.

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19 Comments

19 Comments on Icons Among Us: Myles Standish Hall

  • Mike Casteel on 10.12.2009 at 5:56 pm

    Icons Among Us Article

    I may be a little biased as the writer happens to be my nephew but I found the article and video captivating. It seems his Boston University education has served him well!

  • Anonymous on 10.13.2009 at 9:45 am

    Great video! how did you even find these people? they’re stories were really interesting

  • Monica (Falkenthal) Reed on 10.14.2009 at 10:05 am

    Myles Memories

    It was a pleasure seeing Myles Standish almost 20 years after graduation. Fond memories of living on the 6th floor, living in Kenmore Square and the dining hall flooded back to me. Thanks for the memories!

  • Johnna Miller on 10.14.2009 at 10:14 am

    Loved it

    I’m really happy to see this kind of project being sent out to the world on Facebook, etc. It was great to see the history of Miles Standish Hall and a nice look back at life at BU.

  • Anonymous on 10.14.2009 at 10:33 am

    Enjoyable!

    Great job on the video, brings back great memories from my sophomore year when I lived in Myles!

  • Robert Harvey on 10.14.2009 at 3:43 pm

    Myles Standish article/video

    Thanks for this great article and the wonderful video! Like Joseph Piazza, I’m from the Class of 1973 and I too lived in Myles Standish (in my case, for almost all of my four years at BU). I can confirm his stories of all the demonstrations, which were especially frequent during the 1969/70 school year and in many of which I participated. The early closing in May 1970 — not just of Myles Standish but, as I recall, of all of BU — came in the aftermath of the Kent State Massacre on May 4th of that year. I think BU, like many universities, understandably feared even more demonstrations, and possible violence, in the wake of that event. Ironically — again, as I recall — the campus was much more quiet when we returned for the 1970/71 school year. Anyway, thanks for bringing back so many memories!

  • Anonymous on 10.15.2009 at 10:59 am

    Dude- You completely omitted any mention of Joan Baez, who also occupied the “point room” on the 8th floor many years after IT was the regular residence of Babe Ruth.
    C-ya.

  • John Pickett CLA '77 on 10.15.2009 at 9:49 pm

    Myles Refugees

    What a great video.

    One bit of history that wasn’t mentioned was that Myles was found structurally deficient in the Fall of ’73 and closed just before the start of school my freshman year. Students that were placed in Myles had to be re-located and the university scrambled to find housing for them. One of them was my freshman year roommate in Rich Hall.

  • Lostmoose on 11.05.2009 at 10:40 am

    Great video! I lived at Myles from 1970-72 and it was terrific to see the old gal again. However, as one of my partners in crime from those years pointed out, much was omitted: The Magnificent Myles Marching Band; the hash-pipe logo “Men of the Myles” sweatshirts (you’d be amazed at how many of these are still out there, in pristine condition); the big painting in the English Room; and maybe a tribute to long-time late-night BU police officer John McCarthy, who saw (and tolerated) sooooo much…. Nonetheless, the film was fun and much appreciated. 818 rules!

  • Chas. Obremski on 02.22.2010 at 11:12 pm

    Myles Standish Hall

    I was a RA there, 1965-68. Outrageous! No women, no alcohol, no dope. All strictly enforced. Almost a bible school dorm, except for the basement. Those who were there then, know. Get your sheets.

  • Christopher Maurer on 02.24.2010 at 8:59 am

    Terrific

    What a fascinating video! Thanks.

  • Anonymous on 03.04.2010 at 9:04 pm

    I enjoyed the Myles Birthday Bash when I lived there. I remember two of them. One involved an elaborate casino night with chocolate fondue, performances and karaoke. Good times.

  • Anonymous on 03.06.2010 at 12:01 pm

    Beautiful documentary

    I think it was amazing to show the history of the building, as well as including cultural references and personal anecdotes. Really well done. I think it ended perfectly with commentary from a newer generation. How perfect to see a young boy carry on the name of Myles. Well done.

  • Anonymous on 03.20.2010 at 9:24 pm

    Myles

    Joan Baez ws also known as the first women to be in the dorm floors BEFORE Myles was open to women. When they closed it in 1974, it had the reputation for being the largest drug clearing house in Boston, offered sanctuary for “draft dodgers”, and had seceded from the US. After it reopened in 75/76 the parties were legendary, including the infamous Toga parties.

    Then in 1977/78 when the B&G union wnt out on strike, we had a fire bug who lit candles typically under the sprinklers. Although one time he/she missed and the entire wall of the 4th floor was burned. The fire alarm had already been pulled, so the RA’s hd to go door to door to wake people and get them out. From then on, we had 24 hour fire watch throughout the building.

    Finally, in the winter of 77/78 and the blizzard, we ran out of food and the National Guard had to deliver supplies to the kitchen.

  • Gaby Ribadeneira on 06.24.2010 at 10:26 am

    Thanks for the video! I am an exchange student from Ecuador and I spent 1 semester in Myles along with 4 other ecuadorians! We have great memories in Myles. The lousy food stiill persists, the basement is still a sketchy place, we evacuated once and constantly protested against the rules and authorities! Looks like not much has changed since.

  • Laura Chambers on 08.19.2010 at 4:52 am

    Myles Standish

    I would really love to talk to the person who spearheaded the research on this excellent documentary. My father (John C. Chambers) was the general manager of the Myles Standish BEFORE it was sold to BU or right around then… My mother was a cocktail waitress there at the same time circa 1948-49 and that is how they met. I have heard a lot of family urban legends and would very much like to see what is true. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  • berghaus on 08.26.2010 at 11:50 am

    RE I would really love to talk to...

    You can contact Daryl Healea (dhealea@bu.edu) and Robin Berghaus (berghaus@bu.edu) for more information about the research and video.

  • Jeremy on 12.24.2010 at 8:41 am

    Just impressive

    Howcome I discover this article that late?
    it is amazing to show the history of the building
    a great video the really impressed me.
    Thanks for your work :)

  • Bob on 07.23.2014 at 11:10 pm

    Spent 3 great years there from 1964-1967. A landmark. With Filthies Sandwich shop across Beacon Street we had everything one could desire.

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