George H. Brimhall Building
If the walls of the George H. Brimhall Building could talk, they would tell stories of auto mechanics, blacksmithing, art displays and, more recently, newscasts and press releases. Because, before it became home to the Department of Communications, the building housed many other departments.
Constructed in 1918 with only the Karl G. Maeser building farther to the southwest, the one-story structure sat on “Temple Hill.” This land was part of a 17-acre plot bought by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which most people anticipated would be the site for a future temple. However, Brigham Young University bought the land from the Church and began building what is now the BYU campus.
In its early years, the building was used by the Student Army Training Corps during World War I. It later housed the Department of Mechanical Arts, where blacksmithing and woodworking classes were taught. At one point, the building even served as the garage for the university president’s car.
In 1933, classrooms in the building held some of the first journalism courses taught by Harrison Reuben Merrill. M. Dallas Burnett, who served as chair of the department from 1962−63 and again in 1975−79, remembers taking classes as a student there in 1948, when English courses were held in the boiler room.
“It wasn’t a real classroom, but they just packed chairs in there and that’s where we held class,” Burnett said.
In 1935, two stories were added to the building, and it was named after George H. Brimhall, who served as president of BYU from 1904−21. In 1984, it was again renovated adding 4,700 square feet to the building. At this time, interior design, graphics, illustration, industrial design and the photography programs of the Department of Visual Arts claimed the Brimhall building.
For several years, administrators in the Department of Communications pushed for the construction of a communications building. Classes and lab facilities were scattered throughout the Wilkinson Student Center and the Harris Fine Arts Center. Space and quality facilities were in short supply as the program expanded. In fact, accreditation reports cited a lack of adequate facilities for the department.
The time had come for the growing department to congregate under one roof. Two separate business models were created and various chairs worked to raise money for the construction of a new building. When plans were rejected by the university’s administration, the department began searching for other options.
In a 2003 faculty meeting, Dean K. Newell Dayley brought news of a “window of opportunity” for the department. With his suggestion of trading facilities with the Department of Visual Arts, then chair of the Department of Communications, Michael Perkins got to work on making the transition happen. Within a semester, plans for the switch and renovation of the building were underway.
Finally, in January 2005, the Department of Communications settled into the Brimhall building. The newly remodeled building now provides plenty of faculty offices, conjoined newsrooms and plenty of gathering and studying space for students.
The building was re-dedicated on 11 August, 2005 by Elder John H. Groberg.