Morris House, Smith College, Northampton, Mass

Morris House on the campus of Smith College in Northampton, around 1894. Image from Northampton: The Meadow City (1894).

Morris House in 2018:

As mentioned in the previous post, the identical Lawrence House and Morris House were both completed in 1892, filling a need for student housing at the rapidly-growing Smith College. Although the school had opened less than 20 years earlier, in the fall of 1875, with an enrollment of just 14 students, this had grown to 636 by 1892. Morris House, seen here in these two photos, was named after one of these early students, Kate Morris, who was one of eleven women in the school’s first graduating class in 1879. Three years later she became the first to earn a Ph.D. from Smith, and she would subsequently become the first alumna to serve on the school’s Board of Trustees.

Like Lawrence House, Morris House was designed by Hartford-based architect William C. Brocklesby, and in more than 125 years there have been few changes to the building’s exterior. The small dormer windows on the long side of the building have been replaced by larger ones, and the decorative bargeboards under the gables are gone, but otherwise it looks essentially the same as it did when the first photo was taken. It remains in use as one of the 35 residential buildings at Smith College, and currently houses 68 students on its four floors.

Lawrence House, Smith College, Northampton, Mass

Lawrence House on the campus of Smith College in Northampton, around 1894. Image from Northampton: The Meadow City (1894).

Lawrence House in 2018:

When Smith College opened in the fall of 1875, there were just 14 students enrolled in the school. However, over the next few decades the school saw dramatic growth, resulting in a number of new buildings on campus in the 1880s and 1890s. In the six year period from 1886 to 1892, for example, enrollment grew from 247 to 636, and in 1892 two new dormitories were added to accommodate this influx. The two identical buildings, Lawrence House and Morris House, were both designed by William C. Brocklesby, a Hartford architect who was responsible for many of the campus buildings during this period, and they were named in honor of two Smith College alumnae: Elizabeth Crocker Lawrence, class of 1883; and Kate Morris, class of 1879.

Lawrence House, seen here in these two photos, became a cooperative house in 1912, with students receiving discounted tuition in exchange for doing one hour of chores each day. The 62 spots here were highly competitive, requiring high academic standing as well as an interview with the dean, and former resident Constance Jackson, writing for The Smith Alumnae Quarterly in 1922, noted that “it is considered a stroke of luck by most of the college to achieve Lawrence House.” At the beginning of the school year, students were assigned temporary jobs, but they later submitted their preferences for permanent jobs. As Jackson described in her article:

Later, when academic schedules are definitely settled, each student gives the head of the house a card bearing her first, second, and third choice for a permanent task, as well as her “pet aversion.” Needless to say these are never assigned! The freshmen are but little concerned for they have already been informed by upper classmen who have achieved the dignity of sweeping and setting up tables, that the dinner dishes constitute their particular destiny.

Jackson went on to explain how:

The work is never a burden in any sense, for the hour each day spent at one’s particular task is a wholesome change from the academic atmosphere. The interest which everyone takes in the well-being of the house as a whole is truly remarkable and far different from the attitude commonly seen in the houses where the duties of keeping up appearances fall to maids. A scrap of paper in the hallway, a bit of dust on the stairs, is noticed and immediately removed by whomever sees it first – not because it is a duty but because it reflects on the common home which we have all come to love.

Lawrence House remained a cooperative house for many years, and during this time its most famous resident was Sylvia Plath, who lived here from the fall of 1952 until her graduation in the spring of 1955. Although best known for her 1963 novel The Bell Jar, Plath has already written many short stories by the time she moved into Lawrence House, and several of these had been published in magazines. While at Smith College she also served on the editorial board of the school’s literary magazine, the Smith Review, and in 1953 she was selected as a guest editor for Mademoiselle. However, her college years were also marked by increased depression, and her time at Lawrence House was interrupted in 1953, when she spent six months in a psychiatric hospital after her first suicide attempt.

Today, Lawrence House is no longer a cooperative house, but it remains in use as one of 35 residential buildings on the Smith College campus, housing 68 students. The exterior has seen few changes, although at some point in the mid-20th century the dormer windows on the long sides of the building (not visible from this angle) were significantly altered. Otherwise, both Lawrence House and its twin, Morris House, remain very much the same as they did when they were completed over 125 years ago.

Washburn House, Smith College, Northampton, Mass

Washburn House on the campus of Smith College in Northampton, around 1894. Image from Northampton: The Meadow City (1894).

Washburn House in 2017:

Washburn House was built in 1878, and is among the oldest buildings on the Smith College campus. It was opened as a dormitory just three years after the school opened, and was named for former Massachusetts governor and senator William B. Washburn, who was serving as one of the school’s trustees at the time. Like many of the other 19th century buildings on the campus, it was designed by the Boston-based architectural firm of Peabody and Stearns, with a High Victorian Gothic style that matched the rest of the campus.

Today, more than 120 years after the first photo was taken, the exterior of Washburn House has not seen any significant changes. In the mid-20th century it was the Spanish House, and the interior had Spanish-themed decorations, along with Spanish names for the rooms. Initially conceived during the Spanish Civil War, when students were unable to study abroad in Spain, the Spanish House continued until 1955, when it reverted to a regular dormitory. It has remained in use ever since, as one of 35 residential buildings at Smith College, and it currently has a capacity of 43 students.

Lilly Hall, Smith College, Northampton, Mass

Lilly Hall on the campus of Smith College, seen from West Street in Northampton around 1894. Image from Northampton: The Meadow City (1894).

Lilly Hall in 2018:

When Smith College first opened in the fall of 1875, all of the classrooms, laboratories, offices, and other school facilities were located in College Hall. However, as the school’s enrollment grew there was a significant need for more space, particularly for the sciences. The result was the Lilly Hall of Science, which was completed in 1886 thanks to a $32,500 gift from Alfred T. Lilly, a silk manufacturer from Florence. It was designed by architect William C. Brocklesby and featured a High Victorian Gothic style that was similar to College Hall, but without the polychromatic walls and ornate details.

The original layout of the building had the chemistry and physics departments in the basement and on the first floor, with biology and geology on the second floor and a museum on the third floor. There was a scientific library, a botanical laboratory, a spectrum analysis room, and a photography room, among other modern scientific facilities, and in his dedication speech college president Laurenus C. Seelye called it “the first time in the history of the world when a building like this has been devoted to the study of science in a female college.” In his speech, Seelye went on to explain Lilly’s motives for giving the money, stating that “The donor believes in the education of women. If this was a college for gentlemen, the donor said he would never give a cent. He believes in science, and believes that truth is as valuable for women as for men.”

However, it did not take long for the college to outgrow this building. By 1892, just six years after the building was dedicated, the student body had grown from 247 to 636, and the science departments needed more space. In 1899, several years after the first photo was taken, the school added a separate chemistry building, and by 1914 the geology, botany, and biology departments had all moved into other buildings, leaving only the physics department here in Lilly Hall. Physics would remain here for many years, and in 1940 a Van de Graaff electrostatic generator was installed here in the building. Known as an “atom-smasher,” it was useful in the field of nuclear physics, and it was the first such machine at a women’s college.

In 1967, the physics department left Lilly Hall, and the School of Social Work moved into the upper floors, while the basement and first floor became the Afro-American Cultural Center. Later renamed the Mwangi Cultural Center, it remained in the building until 2005 before moving elsewhere on campus, but Lilly Hall is still used by the School of Social Work. The building itself was renovated from 2002 to 2003, but the exterior has remained well-preserved over the years, with hardly any noticeable changes between the two photos.

College Hall at Smith College, Northampton, Mass

College Hall on the campus of Smith College, seen from West Street in Northampton, around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

College Hall in 2018:

Smith College was established in 1871, as part of the will of Sophia Smith (1796-1870), who left a large bequest to establish a women’s college in Northampton. This building, College Hall, was the first building on the campus, and it was completed in 1875, the same year that the school opened. It was designed by Peabody and Stearns, a prominent Boston-based architectural firm, and its design reflected the High Victorian Gothic style that was fashionable at the time. Smith College has just 14 students and six faculty members when it opened in the fall of 1875, and this building was used for almost everything except dormitory space. When completed, it included classrooms, a laboratory, a social hall, an art gallery, and administrative offices, although this soon began to change as the college grew.

By the time the first photo was taken at the turn of the 20th century, the college’s enrollment had increased significantly. The campus had grown accordingly, and included new residential buildings, a gymnasium, a music hall, an art gallery building, a science building, a chemistry building, and a new academic building. College Hall itself had also been expanded, with an 1890 addition that increased the capacity of the social hall – renamed Assembly Hall – from 500 to 900. In 1901, Assembly Hall was expanded again, by opening up the second floor above the hall and adding another 500 seats. However, this ended up being a temporary change. John M. Greene Hall, with its 2,225-seat auditorium, was completed in 1910, eliminating the need for such a large auditorium here in College Hall, and the second floor above Assembly Hall was subsequently reconstructed.

By the 1909-1910 school year, Smith College employed 104 faculty members and had 1,635 students, with an annual tuition that had just been increased from $100 to $150. At this point, College Hall was only used for the auditorium, some classrooms, and administrative offices, but over time this would continue to change as more buildings were added to the campus. College Hall would ultimately come to be used only for offices, resulting in significant changes to the interior in he process. However, the exterior appearance has remained well-preserved over 140 years after the building first opened, and today the only noticeable difference between these two photos is the lack of ivy on the brick walls of the building.

Main Street from Masonic Street, Northampton, Mass

Looking west on Main Street from near the corner of Masonic Street in Northampton, around 1894. Image from Northampton: The Meadow City (1894).

The scene in 2017:

This scene, on the western end of Main street, was at the outer edges of downtown Northampton for most of the 19th century, and it was not fully developed into its present-day form until the 1870s and 1880s. The oldest building in the first photo is the Edwards Church, located directly in the center of the photo. This congregation was established in 1833 as an offshoot of the First Church, and was named in honor of Jonathan Edwards, the prominent theologian who had served as the pastor of the First Church from 1729 to 1750. The first permanent home of the new congregation was a church at the corner of Main and Old South Streets, but this building was destroyed in a fire in 1870 and, a few years later, the church completed a new building a few blocks to the west, as seen in the first photo.

Around the same time that the new church was built here, Smith College was established on a site just beyond the church, where Main Street divides into West and Elm Streets. The school’s first building, College Hall, was completed in 1875, and can be seen in the distance on the left side of both photos. Like many of the other 19th century buildings on the campus, College Hall was the work of the Boston-based architectural firm of Peabody and Stearns, and was designed in the High Victorian Gothic style that was popular at the time, particularly for schools and other institutional buildings.

The newest buildings in the first photo were the five brick commercial blocks in the foreground on the right side. Known as the Daley Blocks, these buildings were completed around 1886-1887 and were originally owned by Patrick J. Daley, an Irish native who owned a dry goods store in Florence. As the first photo shows, the three buildings in the middle were built with the same architectural style – red brick, with light-colored lintels and sills – but paint and other alterations have obscured these details on the buildings to the left and the right.

Today, aside from these minor changes to the Daley Blocks, the only significant difference in this scene is the Edwards Church. The old church building from the first photo stood here for over 80 years, and during this time it was the home church of Calvin Coolidge and his family, as well as the site of his funeral in 1933. However, by the 1950s it was in in need of serious repairs, and the congregation voted to build a new church rather than renovate the old one. As a result, it was demolished and replaced with the current church building, which was completed in 1958 on the same site as the old church.