Venable Hall honors Wallace Venable, retired head of the science department and former member of the North Adams School Committee and planning board. Born in 1893, Mr. Venable became a key player in the fight against marriage bars in education fields. Marriage bars operated under ideas that married women did not need income and, by holding teaching positions, deprived single women of opportunities. As a result, women faced expectation of giving up practices after marriage. Mr. Venable, a two-time widower and Army veteran, proudly stood against this discrimination.
Completed in March 1960, Venable Hall symbolized a new beginning for MCLA, then known as North Adams State College (NASC). Construction began on Venable Hall in January 1957 to counter the college’s risk of closure due to low graduation rates during and after World War II. NASC sourced $1.5 million in funding, an amount equal to approximately $8 million today, to erect Venable Hall as a catalyst for expanding educational capacity, in space as well as programming, and for stimulating enrollment. The building has primarily been used for sciences and theatre. As per government regulation for new constructions in the 1950s, Venable Hall included a fallout shelter in case of nuclear attack by Russia during the Cold War. Shelters occupied the bottom floor of new constructions and often existed to fulfill regulation rather than for practicality. This door once marked the entrance to one such shelter able to house a maximum of five individuals and made with materials incapable of withstanding a nuclear blast.