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The Life Sciences Building: Leaving Oglebay Hall Behind

Oglebay Hall served the Department of Psychology well for several decades, but was beginning to show its age as the end of the century approached. The building did not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act due to the inaccessibility of the freight elevator and the temperature of the classrooms was always hot, either due to the summer heat at the beginning of the Fall Semester or the steam heating system at the beginning of the Spring Semester. The University was aware of these problems, much to the credit of Philip Chase, department chair at that time, who pressed the issue until a new facility was promised. The vision became reality in 2002 with the construction and dedication of the Life Sciences Building, a state-of-the-art facility shared with the Department of Biology. The Life Sciences Building is located on Campus Drive on the site of Old Mountaineer Field that was razed in 1987. Students collecting data in the Behavioral Physiology Laboratory in the Oglebay Annex had to plan experimental sessions around the demolition schedule because the impact of the wrecking ball across the street registered as a skin conductance response on the polygraph record of unsuspecting participants!

Michael Perone, Professor of Psychology and Department Chair when the department moved into the Life Sciences Building in August of 2002, assembled the following photographic record of the building that had served the department so well for 40 years and the new home that would provide us with a facility that will last for many years into the future.

Oglebay Hall and the LSB

Oglebay Hall (background) and the adjacent Oglebay Annex (foreground) pictured on the left made way for the modern Life Sciences Building on the right. The Department of Psychology moved into Oglebay Hall in 1962 when the College of Agriculture relocated to new facilities on the Evansdale Campus. Forty years later, the Department of Psychology moved into the Life Sciences Building in 2002. The Department of Psychology is located on the first and second floors (the brick exterior section seen here), with the Department of Biology located on floors 3-5.

Classrooms in Oglebay and the LSB

One of the conventional classrooms in Oglebay Hall on the left that was replaced with the state-of-the-art Blaney Hall in the Life Sciences Building on the right. Note the dilapidated condition of the Oglebay classroom space in which carpeting was used to keep the asbestos in the floor tiles from becoming airborne.

TLC in Oglebay and the LSB

The Department’s computer-based Testing and Learning Center (TLC) in Oglebay Hall on the left was renovated in 1998. Serving 3,000 students in introductory psychology each year, the lab accommodated 60 students at a time, but was cramped. The noise from the four window air conditioners challenged the voices of even the most robust instructors. The TLC in the Life Sciences Building on the right provided much more space and instructional flexibility, and of course, was much less noisy than its ancestor.   

Animal Labs in Oglebay and the LSB

The Oglebay Hall lab on the left was used for small-animal surgery, preparation and study of specimens, and drug and chemical preparation. Visitors dubbed it “Igor’s Lab” because of its resemblance to the dank laboratories in horror movies. Labs in the Life Sciences Building were much more hospitable, as seen on the right.

Rat Lab in Oglebay and the LSB

To date, all undergraduate psychology majors enroll in Behavior Principles Lab, commonly referred to as “Rat Lab.” This instructional laboratory in Oglebay Hall on the left was cramped and lacked air conditioning and plumbing. Indeed, none of the animal laboratories in Oglebay had proper ventilation, and only one had plumbing fixtures. Students and researchers used public restrooms to dispose of animal wastes and clean up. The current facility on the right is clearly an improvement for both students and rats!

Elevators in Oglebay and the LSB

The only operating elevator in Oglebay Hall was this 1917 freight elevator manufactured by Otis on the left. WVU’s Physical Plant did a masterful job of keeping it in working order, because replacement parts were no longer available and the craftsmen in the Physical Plant had to make them by hand. The lobby of the modern Life Sciences Building reveals completely functional public elevators that access all floors of the building.

Air conditioners and bathrooms in Oglebay Hall

Two other features of Oglebay Hall were notable for all who took psychology classes at WVU from 1962 to 2002.  First, heating and ventilation posed significant problems. Note the reliance on window air conditioners in the photo above - Oglebay alone had 75 of them!  Many ran on a year-round basis because the steam heat could not be controlled in many classrooms and labs, and the basement labs suffered from high humidity. The second feature was Oglebay’s unique restrooms. One of the nicer restrooms in the building shown here was the women’s restroom on the second floor of Oglebay Hall. There was only one toilet, but plenty of space to pace back and forth while you’re waiting to use it. Other restrooms in the building included those at the top of both stairwells in which even average sized men and women needed to duck to access and the first floor men’s room that regularly flooded into Dr. Lattal’s office that was unfortunately situated in the basement below it.

Click here to take a tour of Oglebay Hall in 2002 before the department relocated to the LSB. Your tour guides are Professors Stanley Cohen and Mike Perone.

In contrast to Oglebay Hall, where the department took over an existing university structure and configured itself to fit within its walls, construction of the Life Sciences Building provided the faculty, staff, and students of the department an opportunity to design the facility to meet our unique sets of needs. Each faculty laboratory was designed to the specifications of the faculty member who would be using it. The floor plans included a training community clinic, the Quin Curtis Center, named after the department’s first Head (second if one counts John E. Winter’s position as Chair of Department of Philosophy and Psychology) as well as adequate classroom space for a full range of class sizes and laboratories. Faculty and graduate student offices were intermingled along the south side of the psychology floors, so that each office included a window with a view of the public space where the Mountaineers hosted football games decades ago.

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