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Remembering classes in the Tower Building

By Dale Johnson Posted: June 24, 2016 6:00 a.m.

In the 1950s and ’60s, engineering students took drafting classes in the Tower Building.
In the 1950s and ’60s, engineering students took drafting classes in the Tower Building. Photo courtesy of Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan

In the fall of 1954 at Regina College, engineering students took some classes in the Tower Building – one of the landmarks of the historical College Avenue Campus.

And three of those people who began their post-secondary studies more than 60 years ago – Bland Brown, Orin Green and John Johns – fondly recall taking engineering classes in the Tower Building.

“There was a narrow stairway up to the top two floors,” recalls Brown.

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The Tower Buidling has been a landmark since it went up in 1914. Photo: U of R Archives

“We had about 45 students or so in our engineering class, and we were split into two groups. One group went to the upper floor, and the second group stayed on the other floor. The rooms weren’t all that big, but they accommodated 20 or so drafting desks,” says Brown.

Johns well remembers his early days at Regina College. “I started out in engineering and all our drawing labs were in the Tower Building."

"There was no elevator, so we walked up the stairs,” Johns says with a laugh.

“We had drawing labs four days a week, in the afternoon. The students had their slide rules and lots of other equipment,” he says.

Green recalls taking a drafting class, and says the Tower Building was always bright – thanks to lots of natural light.

“The lighting was better because there were more windows,” he says.

That also stands out for Brown, who says “My recollection is it was quite bright, and good lighting is fairly important for drafting.”

Johns agrees, saying “The long tall windows meant the room got a lot of light.”

Brown also says those classes in the Tower Building often had a different atmosphere from other classes at Regina College.

“We had one professor who would be the instructor for both floors at the same time. So he would have to go between the two floors during class,” says Brown.

So what happens when there’s no instructor at the front of the classroom?

“In those days, in laboratories a lot of talk wasn’t appreciated by the professor. But in a small room like that – and if he was away for awhile – of course all kinds of things would be discussed. Having a certain amount of freedom to chat with one another made it different,” says Brown.

And he says something else made classes in the Tower Building unlike those in the rest of Regina College. “It was kind of a retreat from the rest of the campus because we were away from everybody else. The Tower Building was an interesting place.”

After completing their first-year engineering classes in the Tower Building, Brown and Green went to the U of S in Saskatoon and earned their engineering degrees. Johns switched to administration and later taught at the University of Regina.

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The Tower Building was built in 1914 - just three years after the cornerstone was laid for Regina College - as part of the Women’s Residence. The original plan to build towers at each end of the College Building was put on hold due to a shortage of money, and the proposed second tower was never built.

Originally, the main floor of the Tower Building was used for parties and gatherings.

For a time after 1936, the MacKenzie Collection of drawings and paintings was stored at the Tower Building – but when College Avenue Campus was converted to a Training School for the Royal Canadian Air Force, the artwork was stored in Darke Hall.  

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The Tower Building was originally part of the Women's Residence. Photo courtesy of Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan

The second floor was originally a common room in the Women’s Residence, and after World War II this floor was converted into classrooms.

The third floor, originally part of the Women’s Residence, became part of the Men’s Residence after WWII.

The fourth and fifth floors were used for exercises and games in the early years. They became co-educational during the 1930s, and the fifth floor was home to a fencing club for a time.

It was after WWII that both the fourth and fifth floors were converted into drawing laboratories for engineering students. This continued until engineering classes were moved to the main campus, which opened in 1965. Since then, the Tower Building has been used mainly for dance and yoga classes.

For people walking or driving along College Avenue, the Tower Building is a symbol of strength and history of the University of Regina.