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West Hall was the first building constructed by the "Seminary/Institution," later Colgate University.* The "Seminary/Institution" acquired a substantial tract of land on a hillside table overlooking the Chenango Valley in 1826. In the course of the next year a structure was built under the guidance of Daniel Hascall. A rectangular, four-story, stepped gable structure with paired entrances addressed the valley and the village of Hamilton to the north. Its principal decorative elements included elliptical fan-lights and an octagonal belfry. The materials were locally quarried gray limestone, and the simple design reflects local domestic design practice as well as Hascall's experience at Middlebury College. When built, the building housed all functions of the Institution. Major renovations took place in 1910 (Charles A. Rich, NYC) and 1954 (McKim, Mead and White, NYC).
The building served all the needs of the school until a partner, East Hall, was produced (1832). West hall also established the relationship of the campus with the community of Hamilton.
* In A History of Colgate University 1819-1969 (New York: Van Nostrant Reinhold, 1969), Howard Williams notes that what was described as the "Institution" or "Seminary" became the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution in 1833. In 1846 it was chartered as Madison University. In 1890 it changed its name to Colgate University.
The Colgate University Centennial Celebration: 1819-1919. Hamilton, NY: Colgate University, 1920.
Williams, Howard. A History of Colgate University, 1819-1969. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1969.