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From war hospital to coed dorm: The unique history of Alumni Hall

By Braedan Shea

Tucked away in the corner of campus, standing tall above Lake Massasoit, rests Springfield College’s oldest standing student housing building – Alumni Hall.  

In June of 1926, contracts for the construction of a new men’s dormitory were awarded to the E.J. Pinney Company, back when the college still held the International YMCA College name. On September 22nd, the building’s cornerstone was laid. Inside of that cornerstone resides a list of the 1,041 Springfield Alumni who contributed to the hall’s construction; hence, where the name originated. 

One year after the cornerstone was laid, Alumni Hall was completed. It wasn’t until June of 1930 that the building was dedicated, however, when all the funds were officially received. According to the Springfield College Archives, at the time of the dedication, it was said, “The building will grow old in time. But the spiritual values which it symbolizes defy time and circumstance…the spirit will endure long after the ‘New Dorm’ has become old.”

Alumni Hall continued to serve its purpose as an all men’s dormitory until October of 1944, when it was, in conjunction with the Administration building, used as a US Navy Convalescent during World War II. Alumni Hall was used as a hospital and most of the patients were housed there. 

One wing was equipped for bed cases. The rest of the rooms were converted into hospital rooms that could house two-to-four men. The contract was later terminated in February of 1946, with the United States flag being lowered for the last time under US Navy direction on February 28. Following this, the building became a dormitory again. 

Despite being such an old building, Alumni Hall has stayed pretty much untouched since its establishment in 1926, apart from necessary renovations. The biggest change has been on the inside, and it is not just the decor. 

From the beginning in 1885, Springfield College was an all-male institution, and it stayed that way until 1950 when it was decided the best way for the school to grow was to allow women. 

When women were finally allowed to attend Springfield College, the only housing option available was Abbey-Appleton Hall. Though there were other dorms available for them to live in, Alumni Hall was off limits to women for a full 67 years, until finally in 2017 the dormitory changed to co-ed housing. 

In June of that same year, the time capsule that was placed inside of the cornerstone was opened during “Reunion Weekend.” Inside of the copper box used as the time capsule were pamphlets used in fundraising and to promote Springfield College and the YMCA, some fundraising posters, a couple of photographs, business cards, and some newspapers. Another unique item found inside was a typed seven-page list of all the Alumni who donated to the construction. 

Today, Alumni Hall remains largely unchanged. Apart from who was living in the building, it still has stayed relatively the same. The Carlisle Foyer, donated by Mr. S. Richard Carlisle of Springfield, and the MacLean Terrace, named in recognition of Mrs. Charles F. MacLean of New York City, are still used to hold gatherings, presentations and student events for all students to enjoy, providing beautiful views of Lake Massasoit.

Photo Courtesy of Springfield College Archives

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