Eric Parks, Managing Editor
Renovated in 2011, Baran Hall is now a home to many sophomore students at Saint Martin’s University. Currently, the residence hall includes the Great Room, an upstairs lounge with a pool table, and several dorms that house two people each. A laundry room exists, as well as community bathrooms, and the infamous doors that do not automatically lock when closed. The three-story building also does not have an elevator.
Recently, the Shallot was reading through archived records to find interesting stories. What was uncovered from this activity may surprise some students, but not current or past residents of Baran Hall. The documents show that Baran Hall was once Baran State Penitentiary.
The Shallot was able to obtain an interview with an anonymous former inmate.
“Back in the 1980s, I was going through a rough time. I got caught up in some bad activities with bad people, and was found guilty of breaking and entering. The judge sent me to Baran State Penitentiary, and that was when I knew I had messed up. Living conditions were rough, and the guards were not sympathetic. I worked in the laundry room, and it was very cramped and dusty. I’m surprised they still use that area as a laundry room, tucked away under the stairs. It’s nice to see the cell doors and barred windows replaced with what is currently there, but it still does not look like a college dormitory.”
According to one student, it is hard to believe that Baran was ever a prison: “What kind of prison was it? I guess they really did replace the cell doors because my dorm door doesn’t even lock! I can’t imagine running a prison like that. People must have been escaping all the time, just like I will at the start of my junior year.”
It is difficult to find extensive information on Saint Martin’s website because when “Baran Hall” is typed into the search bar, the university’s website suggests, “Did you mean: Barton Hall.” After reading through these documents and understanding that the dormitory used to be a state penitentiary, it is clear why the website does not provide much information.
When asked what he thought about living in an old cell, a current sophomore stated that, “It kind of freaks me out, honestly. I mean, the place looks like a prison, so I’m not surprised at all. Frankly, I wouldn’t be shocked if it was modeled off an old Soviet bunker. The bare white walls really help give it a certain aesthetic. I want to know what crimes people had to commit to end up in this place.”
What some see as a troubling past for Baran Hall, others see as a potential opportunity in the future.
According to an anonymous official in the administration, “Currently, Saint Martin’s is at near full capacity in the residence halls. That is to say that even Baran Hall is full. However, if this were to change in the future, we could always consider converting a portion of Baran Hall back into a prison. The potential new revenue from the department of corrections could help finance a lot of educational projects on campus. And frankly even if we don’t pursue having a partial prison on campus, we could at least open a gift shop or something in Baran to commemorate its history and make a little dough in the process.”