Jan 102007

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I present this extensive list of useless yet interesting trivia about my alma mater, SUNY Plattsburgh. Send a link to this post to other Plattsburgh State alumni you know!
( The URL of this post is http://www.theusualsusspects.com/blog/2007/01/suny-plattsburgh-trivia/ )

Updated 2/27/08

  • Before the State University of New York System was founded, SUNY Plattsburgh was named the Plattsburgh Normal and Training School, a teaching and nursing school.
  • Teaching is still the largest major at SUNY Plattsburgh.
  • The original Plattsburgh Normal School was a two-year non-selective institution. To demonstrate how non-selective it was, the requirements for enrollment were as follows:

    To gain admission to the school, pupils must be at least sixteen years of age, and must possess good health, good moral character and average abilities.

  • If the Plattsburgh Normal School had not been built, Plattsburgh would most likely have had settled for a state insane asylum instead. (Insert your own jokes here.)
  • The Plattsburgh Normal School burned completely to the ground on January 26, 1929. It took more than three years to replace the original structure.
  • Often mistaken for Hawkins Hall, the structure on the left side of the current SUNY Plattsburgh seal is actually the central tower of Normal Hall.
  • Also seen in the official seal is the year 1889. It was founded in 1889 but the school didn’t actually open for classes until 1890.
  • In 1904, Plattsburgh was shut out by Potsdam in a basketball game by a score of 123-0. Now that’s what I call an ass-kicking!
  • For decades, Plattsburgh was the #3 nuclear strike target of the Soviet Union, right after Washington, DC and NORAD. Plattsburgh was strategically essential because the quickest route for military aircraft to reach Moscow was over the arctic circle, but those aircraft would need to be refueled along the way by the Plattsburgh Air Base, which specialized in those mid-air maneuvers. The large siren on campus at the intersection of Broad and Rugar was an air raid specifically to warn of a nuclear attack.
  • Due to it’s immense dimensions (over 3 miles long) and double-thick tarmac, the runway at the old Plattsburgh Air Force Base was capable of landing the Space Shuttle. That fact had nothing to do with the college but it’s still pretty cool.
  • MacDonough Hall has long been rumored to be haunted. The legend is that the basement of MacDonough Hall was once the morgue for the old city hospital that used to exist near Champlain Valley Hall. This story is completely false! MacDonough Hall opened in 1951 as a dormitory and has never served any other purpose.
  • So then what’s the deal with the catacombs under MacDonough Hall? Aside from maintenance purposes, the labyrinth of catacombs below the dormitory also served as a network of bomb shelters. (See “Plattsburgh was Soviet target #3″) There are several places around the building where you’ll find air vents to the underground bunkers.
  • So then what about the ghosts? I’m not about to tell you whether or not MacDonough Hall is haunted but here are two facts to consider:
    1) Two pre-Revolutionary War gravestones were unearthed on the site during the building’s construction.
    2) The field behind MacDonough Hall was used as a public hanging grounds for the nearby Plattsburgh Arsenal which was destroyed (along with most of the surrounding area) by the British raid of July 30, 1813.
    3) In October of 2007, “paranormal investigators” were brought in at the request of school R.A.s to investigate reported hauntings in MacDononough Hall. They reportedly recorded a mysteriously unexplained female voice whispering either “wait” or “hate.”
  • Champlain Valley Hall was once Champlain Valley School of Nursing, the residence hall and school for nursing students training at the city hospital which used to exist on Rugar Street.
  • Before Feinberg, Redcay Hall once served as the central library on campus.
  • The college bookstore used to be the campus cafeteria. Before that the cafeteria used to be located in the basement of MacDonough Hall.
  • In addition to a couple of underground tunnels that remain open to students, there is another underground tunnel that connects Algonquin Dining Hall all the way to the Angell College Center. This tunnel is now closed to students and only available to maintenance workers.
  • The Rockwell Kent Art Gallery is the largest collection of Kent’s artwork outside of Russia.
  • The Nina Winkel Sculpture Gallery within the Myers Fine Arts Building is the second-largest gallery in North American dedicated to the art of one woman.
  • Yokum Hall was once home to the region’s PBS television affiliate, WCFE. In 1987 WCFE moved to a new studio, donating their previous studio and equipment to the communications department.
  • It is a well known legend that if a virgin ever graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh that the eagle atop the MacDonough Monument in downtown Plattsburgh would take off and fly away. The eagle is still there.
  • The campus radio station WQKE “The Quake” used to be known as WPLT “The Pilot” in respect to the Plattsburgh Airforce Base. In 1997 the college sold those call letters to a station in Detroit that wanted to brand itself as “The Planet”. Before WPLT, the original campus station call letters were WSUP… as in “WhatS UP”.
  • Peter Frampton’s classic rock hit song Do You Feel Like We Do, from the best-selling live album of all time, Frampton Comes Alive! was recorded live at SUNY Plattsburgh’s Memorial Hall (not the Field House) on November 22, 1975. So next time you listen to that song remember that all those screaming fans are actually SUNY Plattsburgh students.
  • On July 10, 1976, the campus served as the official staging area for the United States Olympic Team before leaving for the Summer Olympics in Montreal. President Gerald Ford visited SUNY Plattsburgh to address the Olympic team at rally outside the Field House.
  • SUNY Plattsburgh shut down for an early spring break in 1980 for the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Over 800 Plattsburgh students were hired to work at the Olympics, and were bussed back and forth from the campus daily.
  • The reason SUNY Plattsburgh always has spring break during St. Patrick’s Day stems from a St. Patrick’s Day riot in downtown between drunken students and drunken townies. New York State Troopers had to be called in to restore order, and dozens of students were arrested. Following the melee, the Mayor demanded that the college always hold its spring break to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day so that most students would be out of town and away from downtown.
  • Playboy Magazine once named SUNY Plattsburgh one of the top party schools in the entire country. It took the school years to shake that national reputation.
    *[Exact year unknown.]

Want more SUNY Plattsburgh Trivia? Check out “SUNY Plattsburgh Trivia II”.

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  29 Responses to “SUNY Plattsburgh Trivia”

  1. This is great stuff!!!! Thanks!

    Class of ’91

  2. Really cool stuff! Thanks Mike!

    Class of ’92

  3. catacombs under macdonough?
    frampton in memorial hall?
    don’t know which one’s stranger.
    thanks for the facts.

    class of ’07

  4. [name removed] caused the eagle to fly, do a few laps, and then return to perch!

  5. Tried many a drunken night (The Royal, Mothers, Brothers, you name it) to break into the catacombs under McDonough. The Frampton fact is odd. I’ll have to look that one up. Cool if it’s true.

    • Plattsburgh was the best of both worlds – BA in Accounting and party hardy!

      Yes, Frampton was phenomenal and I had a front row seat to one of the great concerts ever, anywhere.

      Go Cardinals!

      • Very cool! I was by the stage too. Listen for the piercing whistle on “Do You Feel Like We Do” on the albumn. That’s me! What a great show that was!
        Rick from Northampton

    • I’ve been in them – as has one of my old housemates from Draper Ave. We went in a different times and for different reasons. She and her friends were looking for a place to smoke weed. I was curious to verify the rumors.
      She claimed that she encountered the ghost of a little girl and it freaked her out. She left, never to return. She was clearly frightened when she relayed her story to me. I figured it was the influence of whatever she was smoking.
      Within a week or two of her story, I went in there by myself with a flashlight. Maintenance crew had left the door unlocked. Mops and cleaning supplies were stashed just inside the door. The main hallway slopes down at an angle. There are various rooms to either side that have thick, heavy doors and/or hinges. Small metal “trap” doors in the walls in places. All of them locked at the time. The walls were thick like those of a bomb shelter. All concrete.
      I did not see anything down there but an old barrel or two. I was frankly more concerned about encountering a sick homeless person armed with nothing but my mag light, than I was about encountering a ghost.
      I did FEEL something down there – which I credit to my imagination. As I continued down into the shelter, it felt like whatever it was came up out of the darkness. I remember it becoming very cold. I felt the tingles in my spine. I got out of there.

  6. spring break 1980 was the crazy year…… the olympics were in lake placid and we had two weeks off at that time so we were in town for st. patricks day…. that was my freshman year… didn’t know the exact reason for being on russias hit list but we always joked that we would be toast if the commies hit us!
    Thanks for the facts.
    1979 – 1984

  7. Hello there. I am President and Founder of the Northern NY Paranormal Research Society. On Oct. 19th we will be investigating the claims of ghosts haunting MacDonogh Hall. ANd to BanksHallRA, we have bveen granted access to the catacombs. On the 20th we will be presenting our findings and answering general paranormal questions in the lounge of the Hall on the first floor.

  8. The last ST. Paddys day celebration was in 1978. People came from everywhere!!!!!!!The floor of Big brothers, which was across the alley from the Monopole at the time, was going to cave in and everyone had to be evacuated. It was never the same again. Also someone got hit in the head by a fire escape ladder from above in the alley. Hitting them in the head, which caused a stir. During spring break that year the flood lights were installed in the alley and big brothers was “remodeled”. After 1978 ( other than the olympics year 1980) no ST. Paddy day celebrations. I do not recall any “riot” it could’ve been a party
    mistaken for a riot.Who knows! I would like to know how many kegs were tapped at the dorms that morning.I know we had one on our floor!! Banks 5th floor all freshman girls,1977-1978. Eagle still there after we all graduated. WHOA!!

    • I was there!! Attended 1976-1978. 16 oz Pabst for 50 cents at big brother’s YEAH! Wednesday beer bash. Lost count of how many times I threw up in the 4th floor lounge of Banks Hall!

  9. St.Paddy’s Day 1980, we knew it was the last one so it was more like St. Paddy’s month. But I don’t remember much so I guess it didn’t happen!
    Who could forget Howie on Big Brother’s Bar?

    • 1980 was great. I worked at the Olympics then had the only St Paddy’s day during my time in Plattsburgh. I remember Howie on the bar in Brothers, I probably carried him home. ..or maybe it was Diz that night.

    • I still hang out with howir form time to time.

    • I was a bartender and I remember chasing Howie OFF the bar.

  10. It is stated that “MacDonough Hall was built in 1951, twenty years after there ceased to be a hospital on Rugar Street”, this is “completely false” as the Champlain Valley Hospital on Rugar Street closed on May 15, 1972 – The “new” wing, built in 1955 still exists, between Banks Hall and the library. Otherwise, a nice site :)

  11. You’re right and I just fixed it. Thanks. CVPH on Beekman Street opened 20 years earlier but the old hospital on Rugar remained in operation.

  12. Sussman, meet Guido.

    Excellent work on these too. I’ll have to try and think up for round III. I may reach to Johnny U or Gumby to see if they have anything to add.


  13. That trivia is not familiar to me.Will you give me some idea or information about on that trivia?I really want to join in this discussion but I need some idea to refresh my mine.
    Josie Smith

  14. I agree with the posting from 10/17. There was no “riot”, just the fire escape incident. After the floor of Brothers almost caved, they tried to “refine” the place. They put in tables and took out the pool table. — It didn’t last long and pretty soon it was back to normal with the Piano Man on the jukebox. St Patty’s of ’78 was crazy. I had a friend up from home, and as we walked through Brothers, (before the floor incident) a coed latched on to him and it was the last I saw of him that night. She may have been from Banks 5th floor! Needless to say, everyone did their part to keep the eagle in town. The school did everything possible to tame things down in ’80. I believe kegs were banned from the dorms that year. Of course, I remember Howie on the bar too!
    One last story about the base: We all got use to the jets and transports coming and going. It just became background noise. I remember waking up in I think it was April ’80 to the engines revving and the aircraft coming and going. We all wondered what was going on. We turned on the news and found out that Carter had tried to send in a rescue for the hostages in Iran. Many of the helicopters crashed in the desert. In the 4 years I was in P-burgh, there was never as much activity at the base as there was that day.
    Thanks for sparking some memories!

  15. UUP took the opportunity to address the SUNY budget deficit and the trustees’ lack of leadership – demonstrated by its protracted delay in announcing a financial plan for the state university – during a public hearing of the trustees in October.
    Trivia Game Challenge

    Trivia Game Challenge

  16. Anybody remember what used to happen when Mac The Knife played on the juke box at Big Brothers in 1978-79?

  17. Just found the site – brings back great memories – wondered what happened to St Pat's at the burg- now I know. Big Brother our favorite! Class of 75 & 76.

    • I don’t remember Mack the Knife being on the jukebox of Big Brothers (didn’t hang out there), but it was certainly on the jukebox at the Deleri (sp?). Everybody sang along. God, that was a great dive!

      The Playboy “Plattsburgh is the place to be on St. Patrick’s Day” was from the early 1960’s as I understand it, maybe 1961?

      Wasn’t there a bonfire outside the Monopole (in the alleyway) in 1977 or so on St. Patrick’s Day? Vague memory of that, and being denied entrance to the alleyway by Plattsburgh cops.

      I lived in McDonough for a year but have no memory of stories of it being haunted.

      The Frampton thing is absolutely true. He was an unknown then, and the concert was not even sold out!

  18. Plattsburgh was certainly the place. Everyday in college seemed like a party. I remember 99 cent buckets of beer at the Royal for Friday Happy Hours, then going to dinner, taking a nap, then getting back out for 3 dollar beer blast at the Royal from 9-1AM. We sometimes end up at Woodstock’s for $1 beers, then Pizza Uno. There were always after hours parties. I remember those 40-keg parties on Couch Street. It seems like they really changed the school after we left in 1991. The drinking age was 21 back in 1987, but students carried cases of beer past the RA’s to the 2nd floor of Wilson Hall. The RA’s often joined in. Often, we’d take the 18 mile trip to Canada just to get good beer. Back in the day, there was only cheap beer like Milwaukee’s Worst (The Beast) and Bud. Those Bradors from Canada were 6.2% and tasted better.
    I talked with a few students who attended quite a few years after I graduated. They were straight and boring…nothing like the 1987-91 crew! I hope that I just ran into a few odd balls and that the college is still living it up. Don’t forget that SUNY Plattsburgh was ranked #3 for party schools in Playboy magazine back in 1980 (give or take). My party days ended 1/2 a lifetime ago, but the memories live on!

  19. We were always looking for hidden passageways or other places to explore on the walks back from downtown. One night we did find a door in the basement of MacDonough was open and seemed to be part of a fallout shelter. The most interesting thing we saw was a giant cylinder in a room on it’s side (maybe 5 feet in diameter and 20 feet long. There were three little stairways (left side, middle, right side) that ended on top each with a toilet seat. The next morning in good ole Moffitt hall we recounted the previous night adventure with someone scratching their head saying, “did we find a giant 3 person toilet in the basement of MacDonough?”….good times.

  20. Big Brothers burned down sometime in the late 1980’s right? Anyway when i was there we turned BB’s into a New Wave dance club for a year or so-we called it Danceteria. My roommate and i were DJ’s at WPLT and we would bring records down from the station (probably not authorized by GM), and we would play New Order, Joy Division, all the New wave stuff and dance our asses off. was fun. we also helped book 10,000 Maniacs into Big Brothres, for two nights. That was before they became famous, but what a great memory. All i remember was the owner who had this big mustache, and he loved the money pooring in to Brothers. He would run in the back- snort some coke and them come out and slap us on the backs! All we got was free booze and good times which i will always remember. The last thing I did at Brothers was host some air guitar contests, which also were pretty popular. Good times, good times.

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