Edmunds Union, nicknamed “The Coop,” opened in 1937 and was named after the fifth president of Pomona College, Charles Keyser Edmunds. The original building contained the Edmunds Ballroom, administrative offices, and the Fireplace Lounge. Building additions were made in 1950 and 1970, adding the Coop Store, the Coop Fountain, the Courtyard Restaurant, Recreation Room, the Smudge Pot, and the Career Center. The original union, except for the ballroom, was demolished in the summer of 1997 to make room for the construction of the new Smith Campus Center.
The nickname “Coop,” which was used synonymously with Edmunds Union, was either derived from the first student government, from the Associated Students of Pomona College store run as a cooperative, or from an area in one of the original college buildings, Holmes Hall, which was used to sell books and student supplies. This area was called the “Little Coop,” where Oliver Duvall, 1895, was said in The Ward Ritchie Press to have "let down the cupboard door, which formed sort of a counter, from which he sold textbooks and stationery, and especially those direful blue books for tests and examinations."
The Smith Campus Center was completed during the summer of 1999 as a combination of renovation and new construction. It was designed to serve as the center of campus life at Pomona. It is built in three levels, one below ground and two above. It contains the original Edmunds Ballroom, renovated from the original construction, five smart meeting rooms, three student lounges, two food service facilities, two social rooms/recreation facilities, an ATM station, the Coop Store, the 200-seat Rose Hills Theater, and the student mail room. It also houses the ASPC/Campus Center office, the Asian American Resource Center, the Career Development Office, the Draper Center, and the Teaching Learning Center. Food service operations include the Sagehen Cafe, a wait-staffed restaurant, and the Coop Fountain, the student-run snack bar. This most beautiful of structures was designed by the architect Robert A. M. Stern of New York City.
In 2006, a much-anticipated completion/renovation of the Campus Center was undertaken to enhance the original construction project. The lower level portion of the project included construction of a new social space, Doms Lounge, a makeover to the Campus Center social room, offices for ASPC and Career Development staff, and interview rooms for internships, employers, and career development. On the ground level, the Kinsmith Coop Fountain was remodeled and expanded to include recreation equipment; a campus living room was constructed from the first floor meeting rooms; and the student mail center was relocated to the living room. The former mailroom was changed to a gallery for student, faculty, or traveling art exhibits. On the second level, the Writing Center was added, as were two new meeting rooms. In recognition of the construction of the Lincoln and Edmunds Buildings, the north patio was opened, expanded, and furnished, to accommodate the increased foot-traffic from the north. The South Lawn was opened to the Courtyard providing increased program space and a more welcoming entrance from the south.
Today, the Smith Campus Center thrives as the Pomona College living room, attracting hundreds of daily users and serving as the backdrop for the academic and personal business of students, staff, and faculty.
This post is part of a series of campus stories about the history and role of college unions. For more stories and examples like this, check out the second edition of The College Union Idea publication, released in 2012 to chronicle the philosophy and function of the college union throughout more than 100 years.
is the Associate Dean of Students and the Director of the Smith Campus Center & Student Activities at Pomona College.
Along with the Campus Center, Chris oversees the Outdoor Education Center, the college radio station, and the 2,500 seat performing arts center, Bridges Auditorium. In addition, he advises the Claremont Consortium newspaper, The Student Life, the Pomona Student Union, and he co-advises the student government. Chris' research examines bystander behavior of undergraduate men involved in dangerous drinking situations.