Campus History: Smyth Hall

In 1915, Archbishop James Keane announced expansions were coming to Dubuque College, now Loras College, in the form of new buildings, including a new infirmary. Within a year, architectural plans would be in the works for a facility that would serve as a new hospital for the College with operating space and patient rooms that would lead to medical studies being added to the curriculum with construction completed by 1917.

The building was never erected.

In June 1926, an infirmary would again be the topic of discussion as the board of regents of the renamed Columbia College announced plans for the erection of a new college infirmary, stating, “The new infirmary will be strictly modern and adequate for all the students of the institution, those of Loras and St. Joseph halls.”

This time, they followed through on the plans, and the infirmary opened in September 1927. A gift covered the cost of the infirmary to the College from Archbishop Keane.

The first floor was designed as an isolated ward for those with contagious diseases; the second floor was examination rooms, a dispensary, a kitchenette and private rooms for patients. The third floor was a suite for a resident member of faculty and private rooms for patients. St. Patrick’s Chapel was located on the third floor and offered daily mass.

In 1939, the infirmary was renamed Smyth Hall during the college’s centennial to honor Clement Smyth, the second Bishop of Dubuque. During World War II, the first floor was resident quarters for the US Navy’s V-5 aviation cadets and dubbed the “good ship Loras” by the USN officers and cadets.

In 1947, Smyth was converted into a residence hall with an infirmary on the first floor’s south end before ceasing to operate as an infirmary entirely in 1952.

Smyth would undergo a renovation in 1996 to update office, classrooms and lounge areas at a cost of approximately $80,000.

This three-story student housing building is located in the center of the campus. It has a rectangular plan built in the Colonial Revival style, though it is not fully symmetrical. It has a block foundation with load-bearing brick masonry walls.

Content for this article was pulled from extensive research conducted by Hannah Bernhard (’18).

About Loras College
Founded in 1839, Loras College leverages its historic roots as Iowa’s first college, the second oldest Catholic college west of the Mississippi River and one of the nation’s 10 diocesan colleges to deliver challenging, life-changing experiences as part of its residential, Catholic setting. In 2020, Loras was ranked the 16th Best Regional College in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report and one of America’s Top 200 Most Loved Colleges/Universities by Forbes Magazine for the fourth consecutive year. Loras students ranked No. 2 in the world as part of the global Peeptrade Investment Challenge while a second group ranked No. 4. For the 12th consecutive year, Loras Media Studies student-led television station (LCTV) was named the TV Station of the Year by the Iowa College Media Association (ICMA).