Throughout the 20th century, Springfield College’s Alumni Hall served as an all-male residence hall, an Army Air Cops base, and a World War II Naval Hospital.
If you think Springfield College is small now, you don’t know what it was like one-hundred years ago. The main dormitory was located in the administration building, and it was shared with classrooms and office space.
Perhaps that is the cause of the close-knit community Springfield prides itself on today. It wasn’t until June 5, 1926 when students were able to stretch their limbs at the expense of a 450,000 dollar residence hall.
This marked the construction of Alumni Hall, a building with more rich history than you might have known.
When the decision was passed to build a new dorm on campus, Springfield Alumni stepped up to the plate. “Its called Alumni Hall for a reason,” Jeff Monseau, Springfield College Archivist said. “Alumni donated the money for the residence hall.”
Monseau is exactly right. Through fundraising and donations, 1,135 alumni contributed to the cost of the building.
Popular fundraisers involved competitions in which alumni would pledge money during various student run games. Each alumni who pledged 500 dollars or greater was recognized by recording their name in a roll. This roll was turned into a book, which can be viewed in the college archives.
In the end, a total of 250,000 dollars were raised. When all pledges were met in 1930, the building was officially named Alumni Hall.
Fast forward nine years, and the dynamics of the school changed drastically. America was in the heat of World War II, and the Army Air Corps made a proposal to Springfield College.
For 90,000 dollars in facility upgrades, the Army Air Corps used the campus as a temporary training ground. So in 1939, Springfield closed its classrooms and was taken over by the military.
This lasted five years, until the college was used to serve an even greater purpose. The United States Navy offered 75,000 dollars towards building repairs in return for using the college as a military hospital.
A 1944 news article titled, “U.S. Navel Convalescent Hospital Begins Operations,” records statements of the hospital’s plans.
“New Officers and staff members are arriving daily and shortly the unit will be fully staffed with approximately 14 officers, 55 enlisted men and women, and eight nurses.”
One of the officers was Springfield College’s own Lt. George W. Meyers. He had graduated in 1937, only to return and serve while the hospital was in operation.
The hospital was complete, using Alumni Hall for residency, the Admissions building as office space, and Woods Hall (modernly known as the Student Union) as a cafeteria.
Additionally, the Navy built an above ground, enclosed hallway, facing lake Massasoit. This renovation connected all three buildings, enabling residents to move between them without having to step outside.
On Sept. 22, 150 patients were admitted and given a room in the hall. The 1944 article reads, “’The Navy believes it is better for these men to be near home where they may be visited by their families during their convalescents’,’ Comdr. James S. Rooney said.”
Today, the hall is functioning as its original purpose. Rather than housing injured military personnel, the building houses 250 upper-class males.
So for those of us who walk by Alumni Hall and think of it as a rowdy old building, know that it lived a life of rich history and importance. With that knowledge unveiled, it’s safe to say that there is more to this school than meets the eye.