Inside Spotlight

A Secret Apartment in Dallas Hall?

Dallas Hall is home to more than just the famous university seal, classrooms, and offices. Unbeknownst to most of the student body, Dallas Hall is also home to several secret spaces, including a hidden time capsule and a spiral staircase nestled in the building's walls that leads from the first floor up to the attic. The most talked about “secret” feature, though, is an apartment, hidden away in the very top of the building. Most pass by its unmarked door every day, unaware that anything of historical importance is on the other side.  From the balcony directly off the apartment’s single bedroom is one of the best views of the SMU campus and downtown Dallas.  In fact, on a clear day one can see nearly twenty miles all the way to AT&T Stadium in Arlington where the Dallas Cowboys play.Dallas Hall Apartment

Though there is some controversy about its history, SMU Professor Emeritus Dr. Darwin Payne’s account found here, the most commonly cited story, is that the apartment was originally intended as the on-campus residence for SMU’s first football coach, Ray Morrison, when the University opened for classes in 1915. However, as the story goes, the administration hadn’t anticipated that when Morrison reported to campus he would be married, and the small one bedroom apartment was not large enough for the Morrisons. He and his wife never lived in the apartment, instead opting to rent a nearby house on Haynie Street.

The apartment has remained unoccupied for the past 100 years, except for occasional “visitors” who might add their mark to the graffiti that adorns the apartment walls. Dust and dirt cover most of the floors, and outside of the graffiti, there is little indication that anyone has visited the apartment in some time. With the small size of the apartment, exposed lighting, and series of creaking staircases, the apartment itself has an eerie feel.   

Some of our past students—and even some present students—have found their way up the precarious winding stairwells that lead to the apartment, so today it may not be the best-kept secret.  For those who haven’t experienced it, however, it’s fascinating to know that Dallas Hall is full of secret gems like the apartment.

In the fall of 1915, when SMU’s first students arrived on campus, Dallas Hall was the center of the university, housing a bookstore, soda fountain, grill, and a barber shop, in addition to offices, classrooms, and the library. Though the relics of these features have mostly been lost to time, the apartment still stands largely unchanged, serving as a small reminder of SMU’s past. At Dedman we recognize that these little treasures are all part of SMU and Dedman’s rich 100-year history, and are treated with as much respect as we have for the University seal on the floor of the Rotunda.