Tuesday, March 09, 2010

North Hall: Classic Brick Row Dorm

In the fall of 1837, construction began on a four-story dormitory that was placed between the newly-dedicated Chapel and the President's House. Originally called Theological Hall, since it was intended for the college's divinity students, the dorm opened in October, 1838 with its official name, North College. Its original sixteen rooms were designed to house 32 divinity students, but from the start, college students were allowed to live here. By 1853 the college had closed its divinity school, but North remained the dormitory of choice.

North Hall, as it was renamed after the old college moved to Cleveland in 1882, had no amenities until the 20th century. For decades residents had to use an outhouse located several yards behind the dorm, bathed in Brandywine Creek or used a bucket at the hand pump, and had to carry firewood up to their rooms to feed their pot-bellied stoves. Electricity was not installed until 1916.

The earliest photo of Brick Row shows North Hall with a weather vane on the roof. The weather vane was actually the property of the U.S. Weather Bureau, and the student who occupied the northwest room on the third floor received free board for keeping a record of the wind's direction and a barometric reading twice a day which was reported to Washington on a weekly basis. This practice continued into the 1880's.

The number of suites in North Hall was reduced when plumbing was installed, and still later, when the faculty apartment on the first floor was expanded. The building has been remodeled and renovated several times but retains the simple Greek Revival character that its architect, Simeon Porter, had intended. North Hall was selected for inclusion in the Historic American Building Survey in 1934 at which time measured drawings of its interior and exterior were made and filed with the U. S. Department of the Interior. An incomplete room-by-room list of students who have lived at North Hall is kept in WRA Archives.

For the last few decades, North Hall has consisted of eleven suites, each with two small bedrooms with a maximum occupancy of 33. This year there are 26 residents. In addition to the faculty apartment on the first floor, a smaller suite on the third floor is usually occupied by another faculty member.