Throughout its history, there have been gathering places at Old Dominion where students could socialize and develop friendships. In the early days as the Norfolk Division of the College of William & Mary (Norfolk Division), it was Bud’s Emporium (Bud’s) and Gray’s Pharmacy (Gray’s). As the University grew and evolved, so did the communal places on campus. This involved the relocation of Bud’s, the expansion of services offered at Gray’s, and the building of the Webb University Center (Webb). Unfortunately, neither Bud’s nor Gray’s would exist forever; Bud’s would close shortly before the opening of Webb in 1966, while Gray’s would close in 2016. Despite this, Bud’s and Gray’s left a lasting impact on the early years of the University, while Webb would become the key social space for the entire University.
Bud’s was an early snack bar and student gathering spot, which was located in the old Larchmont School. Bud’s opened in 1934, four years after Old Dominion was officially established as the Norfolk Division. Bud’s was run by Audrey T. “Bud” Paul, with the help of Bessie Charity, who helped run Bud’s after his death in 1948. Bud’s moved twice throughout its life, first from the old Larchmont School to the Administration Building, now Rollins Hall, in 1945, and finally to the new Science Building, now Spong Hall, in 1956, where it would remain until it closed in 1966, with the opening of the Webb. Bud’s was the first on-campus food option to open and would remain the only option, besides Gray’s, where students could congregate and eat, until the opening of the Webb. Bud’s was also a place for students to relax between classes, listening to the juke box, playing cards, and having a smoke break, strengthening the slowly growing community of Old Dominion.
Gray’s existed prior to the founding of the Norfolk Division, opening in 1918 on Hampton Boulevard between 47th and 48th Streets, directly across from campus. During the years it was active, Gray’s served as a pharmacy, soda fountain, and post office. While Gray’s never kept up with the times as years went by, in the early years of Old Dominion, it was a staple of the social life of students. It was a place to hang out and get something to eat, while also providing all the services of a pharmacy and bookstore. However, as years passed, it became less popular with students, as more variety in dining choices was introduced through the construction of Webb. Gray’s was considered old-fashioned by the 1970s, appealing more to those nostalgic for the early days of Old Dominion.
The most well-known and longest-lasting beacon of student life on campus is the Webb, which stands in the middle of campus, a monument to former President Lewis W. Webb Jr, who not only oversaw the University’s independence from William & Mary in 1962, but also oversaw Old Dominion’s move from college to university status in 1969. From its opening in 1966, Webb has acted as the anchor for the campus, offering a variety of socializing spaces, in the form of cafeterias and other eateries, such as the Rathskellar, as well as pool tables and spaces for student organizations. Webb is the focal point of campus, with the vast majority of activities on campus occurring there, such as activity hour from 12:30 to 1:30pm every Tuesday and Thursday, while also providing a wide variety of food options, ranging from Qdoba to Chick Fil A. Located at the north end of Kaufman Mall, Webb also is the focal point for outdoor activities and events, such as some of the student protests of the 1960s and Homecoming activities.The Webb acts as a gathering place for students to socialize and take a break between classes and on the weekends. It provides a boisterous atmosphere, with a constant stream of people throughout the week. While Bud’s and Grey’s were an outlet for the commuter campus of the Norfolk Division to socialize, Webb paved the way for Old Dominion to become more of a residential campus, catering dining options to the new housing residents across Hampton Boulevard. The Webb demonstrates the growth of Old Dominion’s community since its establishment in 1930.
The social spaces of both the past and the present have helped Old Dominion’s community grow, leaving lasting impressions. While Gray’s and Bud’s no longer exist, they were key social spaces in the early years of Old Dominion, providing the space for the community to grow, while also demonstrating the need for greater social spaces, leading to the construction of the Webb, which now serves as the center of life on campus.
Steven Bookman has been the University Archivist at Old Dominion University (ODU) since 2015. Prior to coming to ODU, Steven was the University Archives Specialist at the College of William and Mary from 2007 to 2015.
Please use the following as a suggested citation:
Anna Woloshin, "Monarch Way of Life: A Brief History of Social Spaces at Old Dominion University," Mapping the University, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, George Mason University (2022): <https://mappingtheuniversity.rrchnm.org/narratives/odu-socialspaces/>.