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Built of red brick and stone as a general purpose building in 1905, Cleveland Hall featured a columned portico and remains an imposing structure on campus. Cleveland was built in a Neoclassical style reminiscent of Thomas Jefferson's designs for the University of Virginia. It originally housed Denison's Y.M.C.A. chapter, the men's gymnasium, and other recreational facilities, including a swimming pool. The building has had many uses over the years, being renovated in the 1970s to house the Art Department. The swimming pool was filled in to provide space for an art studio. Cleveland Hall is well-maintained, with studio space for a full range of artistic endeavors.
Cleveland Hall was named in honor of Denison trustees and benefactors from Cleveland, including John D. Rockefeller, Ambrose Swasey, and Henry A. Sherwin. One of the main purposes of the building was to provide a spacious meeting hall for the Y.M.C.A. The Y.M.C.A. was an important part of Denison's early mission of religious education, with Denison's first chapter starting in 1868. Many Denison students were interested in the ministry, and there was a high degree of participation in service through the Y.M.C.A. Denison's increased focus on athletics as part of the college experience led to the construction of Cleveland Hall's swimming pool, running track, and gymnasium; while Denison's Calliope and Franklin literary societies flourished in Cleveland's third floor meeting rooms. Built to serve a number of student needs, Cleveland Hall was a vital part of Denison's educational mission and history, and it remains so today.
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