Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project

 

 
Brick Residence Hall

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Institution Name: Alfred University
Original/Historic Place Name: Ladies Hall
Location on Campus: Park St.
Date(s) of Construction:
1858-1860original construction Stillman, Maxson
Designer: Maxson Stillman
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Other (Glossary)
Significance: architecture
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Materials:
Foundation: stone, concrete
Walls: wood, brick, veneer
Roof: slate
 
Function:
1860-present (2006)residence hall (originally for women, presently co-ed)
 

Narrative:
Founded by Seventh Day Baptists as a non-sectarian school, Alfred University is the second oldest co-educational institution of higher education in the United States. In 1858, the women's residence hall on campus was severely damaged by fire, creating the need for a new building. The Brick became that new structure, the first brick (considered fire-proof) building on campus. Built in the shape of a cross, it could house 100 women and provide dining facilities for twice that number. Each occupant had a separate sleeping room adjoining a handsomely furnished and carpeted study room, and the upper floor held meeting rooms for the women's lyceum groups. In 1863, a gymnasium for young ladies was established in the hall. Class rivalries at the turn of the century included the placement of class banners on top of the building's cupola. At one time, in the late 1800's, the University president and his family occupied a suite on the main floor. Faculty lived on the first floor, women on the second, and men on the third. This has been considered by some to have been an early experiment in the co-educational living arrangements now in effect at most institutions.

In the fall of 1918, Alfred received a Student Army Training Corps unit and the Brick became a barracks, outfitted with canteen, mess hall, and infirmary. A similar unit occupied the building during World War II. Brick was unroofed and gutted in 1932 by a fire that nearly destroyed the whole building, and it was decided that it would be rebuilt in Georgian Colonial style with fire-resisting material. The large north porch was eliminated and the cupola was not rebuilt.

Although there had been instances of mixed living in the Brick, it was primarily a women's residence hall until 1970. Today the oldest residence hall on campus, the Brick houses both men and women and is preferred by many students over the modern halls. Its wide halls and dormered rooms are as attractive to this generation as they were to the generations of students from years past.

Given Alfred University's early and lasting history of the education of women, this building is significant to our campus and to the nation. For example, Susan Rumsey Strong wrote that "a female student spoke at the dedication of 'The Brick' [and] commented on the uniqueness of the event. … Not only did she carry her part as well as her masculine associates, but she eulogized Alfred's share in emancipating women from all current discriminatory restrictions, putting them on a plane of equality with men, as for example, in allowing her to read that paper. She said the Alfred University was the only collegiate institution in the country to have done so."
 

References:

Horowitz, Gary, ed. A Sesquicentennial History of Alfred University: Essays in Change. Alfred, NY: Alfred University, 1985.

"New York State Historic Preservation Building-Structure Inventory Form," (n.d.) Herrick Memorial Library Archives, Alfred University.

Norwood, John Nelson. Fiat Lux: The Story of Alfred University. Alfred, NY: Alfred University, 1957.

Strong, Susan Rumsey. The Most Natural Way in the World: Coeducation at Nineteenth Century Alfred University. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Rochester, 1995.

Todd, Nancy. Alfred Village Historic District. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1985.

 

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Last update: November 2006