Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History
In 2002 many students enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of Brown and Brew. What many of them do not know is that at one time in the basement of Curtis Hall dwelt a predecessor: the much beloved hangout called Kursaal.
According to former Tufts President Leonard Carmichael, the eatery/refreshment stand was named after a term used in Switzerland and European resorts to describe a pump room or casino. The President thought it was a good name for a place "where students might 'take the cure' after the rigors of hard study."Later students, unaware of the origins of the name, believed it stood for a shortening of Curtis Hall, or was derived from an African phrase.
The Kursaal first appeared within unused rooms in the recently built Cousens Gymnasium in 1940, yet moved into Curtis Hall shortly thereafter. Curtis Hall was converted into a barracks during World War II, and offered up attractive dining space once the soldiers left.
Unlike Brown and Brew, Kursaal utilized two floors and several rooms, originally featuring blue walls and brown upholstery. In 1962, due to student complaints of 'depressing' and 'morbid,' the original interior was renovated, brown and blue giving way to a black and white theme.
Originally intended as a place for the rest and relaxation of off-the Hill students and alumni, Kursaal soon came to be a favorite for all. As there was no official campus center, the Kursaal ably served as such. Card-playing, reading, playing ping-pong, watching TV, eating, and drinking were the activities of the day.
Not all, unfortunately, was fun and games. Controversy was soon to come in a scene similar to the 2000 "TVs-in-Dewick" complaint, a mild protest was waged upon the installation of a new, more expensive and 'corporate' jukebox in 1964.
A fire in Curtis Hall in 1977 damaged the concession, but the Kursaal continued to provide a popular student gathering place. Then, on December 14, 1984, the Kursaal posted its last menu. On February 1, 1985, with expanded menu and facilities, the Campus Commons opened in the new Elizabeth van Huysen Meyer Campus Center, and the Kursaal was replaced. The basement of Curtis Hall where the Kursaal once lay is now unused except for storage, though the Center for Environmental Management had for a time occupied the area.
Sources: TCAB; TW; LOH2; BG#1; TJ