The mysterious and mildly interesting story of Dwinelle Hall


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Most of us know Dwinelle Hall as the building that conveniently doubles up as an education center and torturous maze, filled with students who have no clue where the hell they’re going. Along with many things, “the first time we ever got lost in Dwinelle” has been an inevitable part of many of our Cal experiences, but have you ever wondered why it’s so damn confusing? For example, why do we enter on Level D and not A? Why do none of the office numbers correlate with any of the classroom numbers? Why do they continue to host classes in a hall that students can barely navigate? We know many have tried to solve the mysteries of Dwinelle before, but here we bring you everything you’ve ever wanted to know.

The story as we know it…
The myth of Dwinelle Hall tells us that, once upon a time, there lived two feuding brothers, both architects, who worked to design and construct the building. Due to the rivalry, each worked with his company on one half of the building, explaining why the whole building makes absolutely no sense.

Is it true?
Unfortunately not. While the myth is a much cooler story than the actual one, in reality the messed up floor plan and the even more messed-up numbering system is due to the fact that Dwinelle was actually supposed to be two separate buildings. At one point, the site on which Dwinelle was built was expected to hold both a building just for classrooms and a building just for offices, but the site wasn’t big enough for the two. Thus, the two completely different buildings were lumped into one, and we were left with the mess we have today.

What kind of name is Dwinelle?
It’s actually the name of the man responsible for the Organic Act in 1868 (which established the University of California). His name was John W. Dwinelle (and we’re pretty sure he’d get lost in Dwinelle too).

What else should we know?
If it wasn’t already obvious, Dwinelle Hall is one of the largest buildings on campus, second only to the Valley Life Sciences Building. It was built in 1952 and has seven floors, A through G. Because the building is on a hill (and it just loves to be as confusing as possible), you can actually enter the building on levels A, B, C or D, depending on where you are. We would advise using the main entrance to decrease your “lost” time by five minutes.

What are some of Dwinelle’s secrets?
Due to its puzzling nature, many Cal students are unaware of some of the secrets hidden within its walls. Did you know there is a cafe called Common Grounds at the top of Dwinelle? Did you know there is an open space hidden in the center of Dwinelle on Level B called Ishi Court? Have you ever noticed that there is a point on every floor where you can see the two halves of the building meet? At this point, you can see five staircases, two elevators and all the corridors. Crazy, right?

Will this stop me getting lost?
No. It’s not nicknamed the “freshman maze” for nothing, but now, when you are lost, you’ll know why!

Image Source: Kakapo31

Contact Gena-mour Barrett at [email protected]