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Abbey-Appleton Hall and the arrival of women on campus sparked a new era

By Cait Kemp

Abbey-Appleton Hall stands practically in the middle of campus, spotlighted by its popular green in the front and a unique one-way lane.

Abbey Hall, as it was originally called, became the first all-female dormitory upon the implementation of a womens’ undergraduate program in 1950. Springfield College had been an all-male institution since its start in 1885, but it was recognized that they needed a program and dormitory for women to grow the College.

According to the Springfield College archives, the dorm gets its name from Emily F. Abbey Gill who gave the funds for the new building. Later, in 1953, there was an addition called “West Hall” that was built due to the influx of female students being accepted and attending the new program.

It was known as West Hall until the name changed in 1965. Leirion H. Appleton, the wife of former President of the Corporation of Springfield Edward A. Appleton, was a major benefactor to the College, but remained anonymous in her donations for many years. Finally, she decided to come forth as the source of donation so that the Hall could be named after her husband. Thus, Abbey-Appleton emerged.

Former Springfield College President (1946-1952) Paul Limbert said, “The campus has a new look, I refer partly, of course, to the presence of skirts and bobby socks, to young men and young women eating together and sharing laboratory equipment, but our new women’s dormitory emerged from the chrysalis of construction as a building of architectural beauty with an enviable location.”

As written in the May 1952 issue of The Springfield Student, the College hosted a dedication of the new dorm and invited high school girls and their parents to attend to become familiarized with the campus. They participated in a “play day,” and saw swimming skills and tennis talent performed in front of them.

The spectacle kicked off the new idea of women being welcomed into a traditionally athletic institution, a characteristic that was viewed as stereotypically-male at the time. Women were breaking the norms at Springfield College just by stepping onto campus.

With the arrival of a class of women to campus, Springfield College created a list of rules titled “Dress and Appearance.” This list states that women on campus should be, “well-groomed and appropriately dressed at all times on and off campus, as they are representing the College.” They could wear pants, but only on specific occasions.

It was a new era for Springfield College, and the introduction of Abbey-Appleton Hall was proof.

Abbey-Appleton, nicknamed “Abbey” for short by students, is all that President Limbert stated it to be. Still today, students often choose to live at Abbey-Appleton because of its “enviable location.” It’s central on campus — not too far from Blake Arena and the Wellness Center, evenly distanced to Lockin and Cheney, and conveniently right next door to the Student Union. The lush green out front is a gathering spot for residents in the warmer months to play frisbee, do homework, and partake in intense Spike Ball battles.

Now, with co-ed floors, it seems miles away from the building it was when first erected. Abbey-Appleton Hall was the foundation for women to be involved in the campus, and now it allows cultural growth on campus today.

Photo Courtesy Springfield College Archives

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