The Latest Reincarnation of Fenwick Library, Wing A

Rebecca Thayer, Buchanan Papers Project Archivist, contributed the contemporary photos for this post.

Fenwick Library nearing completion during the summer of 1967. George Mason University Photograph collection, Box 1, Folder 29, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Completed in October of 1967, Fenwick Library’s A Wing has withstood the test of time. It opened to patrons in late October 1967 soon after a well-coordinated group of faculty, students, and staff hand carried all of the volumes from the East Building, which had served as the temporary library since 1964.

“Book Brigade Highlights Library Moving Day” from Advocate, 1968, George Mason University Yearbook collection, R0132, Box 2, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

The First Floor Reading Room of Wing A hosted the George Mason College Library Dedication in December of 1967. About 75 members of the George Mason community, along with several state and local dignitaries, celebrated the opening of Mason’s newest building and home to scholarly research for decades to come.

George Mason College Library Dedication ceremony, December 15, 1967. This space served as the Periodicals/Microforms and Reading Room from 1967 until December 2015. George Mason University photograph collection, R0120, Box 1, Folder 29, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

The August 23, 2011 5.8 magnitude quake centered in Mineral Virginia shook the building, causing some damage and dislodging ceiling tiles. Wing A was closed for several months while the damage was repaired, but was soon back in the business of supporting the Mason scholarly community.

During that same time, library administrators and university planners were working on a new addition to Fenwick which would add more space for study, programming, and housing of staff and library resources. By 2013 ground was broken, and construction was underway. The new Fenwick Library would take over two years to construct and add over 2,000 seats for study, a 24-hour café and study space, a state-of-the-art Special Collections Research Center with dedicated space for exhibitions, and dedicated areas that can be used for special library events. The 150,000-square foot addition was completed in January 2016.

With the opening of a new Fenwick Library, just 50 yards to the south, the venerable Wing A was converted to the MIX@Fenwick, an on-campus entrepreneurship-focused collaboration and maker space. The MIX featured work tables, 3-D printers, a soldering station, and other resources used in a design and production environment. It opened its doors to the Mason community in June 2017.

Interior of The MIX@Fenwick, July 2017. This is the same location as the 1967 photo above. Photograph by Emily Curley, former Oral History GRA.

With the completion of Horizon Hall over the summer of 2021, the MIX left Fenwick and occupied its new and permanent home in Horizon.

So, what now for the tried and true, hardworking and humble, servant of Fairfax Campus, Fenwick, Wing A?

View of Fenwick, Wing A as seen from the north exit doors of the new Fenwick Library, November 16, 2021. Photo by Rebecca Thayer.

Yes, Fenwick A has been drafted as a foot-soldier in the war against COVID-19. The once-sprawling First Floor Reading Room, which served the periodical and microform-consuming public, has been converted into a COVID testing center, administering the rapid test developed right here at George Mason University.

COVID testing stations (blue tents) can be seen in the rear of Fenwick, Wing A, November 16, 2021. Photo by Rebecca Thayer.

The Second Floor Bound Periodicals Reading room is now a vaccination center. Readers, who once packed the upstairs to study a print copy of Journal of the American Medical Association, may now receive a vaccine from a member of the American medical profession.

2nd Floor Periodicals Reading Room today, serving your choice of Moderna or Pfizer, November 16, 2021. Photo by Rebecca Thayer.

Now almost exactly 54 years old, Fenwick Library, Wing A is still serving the George Mason University community – only in a different way.  While no longer a gathering place for scholars, Wing A is now a gathering place for medical professionals, whose job is to keep George Mason, and members of the surrounding community, safe!

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