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Construction of Chapin Hall in 1912 was funded by Alfred Clark Chapin (1848-1936), Williams alumnus and trustee. First named Grace Hall, after Chapin's first wife, it was renamed Chapin Hall in 1920/1 many years after his wife's death and Chapin's remarriage.
Designed by the eminent Boston firm of Cram & Ferguson, the building is a two-story Neo-Classical rectangular brick structure. The most notable feature of the building is the colossal portico on the south façade featuring full-height Corinthian columns beneath a classical pediment. Inside the building is an 1200-seat auditorium distinguished by elaborately carved oak paneling and gilded ceiling vault.
Over the years, Chapin Hall has been the setting for a wide variety of events: commencements and convocations, theatrical and musical offerings, political gatherings and forums. It is remembered as the scene in May 1970 of the student vote to strike in protest against President Nixon's escalation of the Vietnam War. In quieter times, the front steps and portico are still used as a campus meeting and sunbathing spot, giving rise to the nickname "Chapin Beach."
Various renovations have occurred to this building, but it remains an exceptional piece of Ralph Adams Cram's work. Whitney S. Stoddard, late professor of Art History at Williams, believes that Cram modeled Chapin Hall on the Senate House in Cambridge, England.
Cram, Ralph Adams. "Recent University Architecture in the United States." Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects (May 25, 1912): 497-518.
Klauder, Charles Z., and Herbert C. Wise. College Architecture in America and Its Part in the Development of the Campus. New York and London: C. Scribner's Sons, 1929.
Lewis, R. Cragin, ed. Williams 1793-1993: A Pictorial History. Williamstown, MA: Williams College Bicentennial Commission, 1993.
Rudolph, Frederick. Mark Hopkins and the Log: Williams College, 1836-1872. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1956.
Rudolph, Frederick. Mark Hopkins and the Log: Williams College, 1836-1872. Reprint, with an appendix by the author, "Williams College 1793-1993: Three Eras, Three Cultures," Williamstown, MA: Williams College, 1996.
Spring, Leverett Wilson. History of Williams College. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1917.
Stoddard, Whitney. Reflections on the Architecture of Williams College. Williamstown, MA: Williams College, 2001.
Spring, Leverett Wilson. History of Williams College. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1917.