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Ohio University Lancaster was founded in 1956. Learn more about the history of the campus in the sections below.

Campus History


From a distance of more than half a century, it's difficult to imagine a time in which academia in the United States was out of reach for most families outside the upper classes. Signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944, the GI Bill created one of higher education's most revolutionary changes. The bill brought more than two million World War II veterans-many of them first-generation students who otherwise could not have attended college-onto the country's campuses, whose capacities had eroded during the difficulties of the war.

At Ohio University, John C. Baker faced this formidable challenge while still in his first year as president. Baker established university "branches" in high school buildings in Portsmouth, Chillicothe, and Zanesville, building upon the university's existing Evening Division offerings in Zanesville and Portsmouth.

Although the branches were considered a temporary emergency measure, Baker anticipated the issues of access across geographic and personal boundaries-issues tracing their roots to the GI Bill-that kept the University's regional programs alive once the crisis had passed.

Baker's belief that the branches could be self-supporting, together with the passionate commitment of the communities in which they were located, created the structure of Ohio University that has since come to pass: a central campus in Athens and five university campuses throughout the region.

With additional sites established in Belmont County and Lancaster in the 1950s, Ohio University's regional campuses have brought educational opportunity to a wide variety of students-full-time and part-time, traditional and non-traditional, at levels from associate degrees to graduate studies.

Beyond typical educational efforts, however, the regional campuses extend cultural offerings to the communities, with programs in art, music, theater, and by hosting speakers of national and international reputation.


The Lancaster campus was created, after the regional system became institutionalized. In 1956, citizens of Lancaster and Fairfield County petitioned the Ohio University Board of Trustees to establish a branch in Lancaster. 

The first classes were offered beginning in fall quarter 1956, in what is now the Stanbery Administration Building on Mulberry Street in Lancaster. The new institution offered 16 courses and enrolled 295 students. All classes were held in the evening. Additional facilities were soon rented throughout the community, and the main administrative offices were housed in Lancaster High School.


The need for a permanent, unified location for the Lancaster campus soon became evident. The Ohio University Board of Trustees promised $1.75 million toward the project if community members could raise the rest of the cost.

In 1965, the Fairfield County commissioners donated 45 acres as a campus site. This land had been the farm supporting the county home located across Granville Pike in what is now called the Clarence Miller Building. That acreage is now the northern part of the campus. An Ohio University Lancaster Development Fund was established in late 1965 to raise funds to purchase additional land. A memorial gift of almost $78,000 was used to purchase 65 additional acres, now the south end of the campus. By early May 1966, the drive ended with a total of $760,000.

John T. Brasee Hall, named for a prominent nineteenth-century Lancaster attorney and Ohio University graduate, opened for classes in late September 1968, with an enrollment of 821 students in day and evening classes, 17 full-time faculty and 40 adjunct instructors. Brasee was one of the most distinguished citizens of nineteenth-century Lancaster. Born in Pennsylvania in 1800, he came to Ohio at the age of 15 and entered Ohio University in 1819. He moved to Lancaster to become principal of Lancaster Academy in 1824. He read law and joined the Lancaster bar, then known as one of the finest in the country. He served in the State Senate in 1856-57 and gradually gave up his law practice to take care of his extensive farming interests. He died in 1880. 


After 1970, Lancaster’s enrollment, curriculum, and physical needs expanded significantly. In October 1976, Herrold Hall opened. Built at a cost of about $2 million, Herrold Hall now houses industrial labs, computer labs and an art studio. Like Brasee, Herrold Hall was funded by a local community campaign, this time intended to honor the late Gordon Herrold, long-time vice president for engineering and research of Anchor-Hocking Glass Company in Lancaster. Gordon Herrold was the great-great-grandson of Russell Herrold, one of two brothers who furnished the lumber for Cutler Hall on the Athens campus, now a national landmark. An adjoining terrace, behind Herrold Hall, dedicated in 2000 by Herrold’s daughters, honors Gordon’s wife, Lucille Nazor Herrold.


In 2003, a Master Plan was adopted for the OHIO Lancaster campus. The plan resulted in renovations for a new front door for Brasee Hall making the north entrance the main entrance, as well as renovation and modernization of the Hannah V. McCauley Library and the gymnasium.

2010s - Present

Between 2015 and 2020 extensive capital projects maintained and modernized the campus.  Renovations established the Jane Johnsen Center for Learning and Student Success, revitalized the Wagner Theatre, expanded hot food service capabilities in Bob’s Bobcat Bistro, and relocated the Wilkes Gallery to the north lobby.

Historic Covered Bridges

The two covered bridges spanning Fetters Run on the east side of the campus were moved here from their original sites. The red wooden bridge, John Bright No. 2, was constructed by Augustus Borneman in 1881. It originally spanned Poplar Creek. The bridge was moved in 1988 using twin I-beams and two trucks. In 1975 the bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2014, the bridge was recognized with an Ohio Historical Marker.  The John Bright No. 1 Bridge, an example of a rare design known as a rigid suspension bridge, was re-erected across Fetters Run in 1999. Originally built in 1884, it also first carried travelers across Poplar Creek. John Bright No. 1 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

Both historic bridges are heavily used each summer during the famous Lancaster Festival, a twelve-day celebration of the arts with venues throughout the City of Lancaster. On the two Saturdays of the Festival, very large concerts are held on the east side of Fetters Run on Festival Hill. The Lancaster Festival Symphony Orchestra accompanies nationally known artists while Festival goers’ picnic in the open air.