History of Hartwick's Buildings

Anderson - Arnold - Binder - Bresee - Clark - Dewar - Golisano - Holmes - Johnstone Science Building - Leitzell - Perrella Wellness Center - Saxton - Shineman Chapel - Smith - Van Ess - Wilder - Yager Museum/Stevens-German Library

Created by
Danielle Peloquin
Archives Intern
Fall 2006

Bresee was the first building to appear on Oyaron Hill. It was completed in 1928 and was originally known as Science Hall. It housed the girls' locker room before the field house was built. It was also the home of the college library for many years. The language, math, art, and home economics classes were originally taught in this building. There was also a chapel that seated 250 people. Two lounges were included, one for the women on the first floor and one for the men on the third. During and after the Second World War, the fourth floor was occupied by a Naval Defense Unit. They constructed a catwalk on the roof that they could use for observation and an antenna system that they used for widespread communication. The apparatus was later taken down.

Groundbreaking for Bresee Hall in 1927

Bresee after completion in 1928

Science Lab in Bresee circa 1930

Arnold was originally built as an academic building for the theology and art departments. It included a library wing, a wing for the chapel and its staff, a reading room, and a memorial tower. In the chapel wing, there was a sanctuary that seated 600 people with a small balcony, a meditation chapel, and five offices for the chaplain and religious staff. The basement of the chapel wing had a projection room and a display of the college's Native American artifacts. In 1968, Hartwick broke its affiliation with the Lutheran Church and turned the chapel into a wing for faculty offices. In the same year, the library moved out of Arnold and the space was transformed into more academic offices.

Grounding Breaking of Arnold in 1949

Construction of Arnold in 1949

Chapel in Arnold in the 1950s

Dewar was built as an all girls' dorm. In 1953, the construction team broke ground. The original building, before more recent renovations, cost $240,000. It could house 50 students in the top two dorm floors. The lower floor was the "college commons" that could seat 135 students. It also had a recreation room and kitchen. In 1959, two double and three single dorm rooms were added along with another dining room, a snack bar, and a storage unit. In 1989, Dewar underwent its last renovation. It has not been modified significantly since.

Dewar originally as a women's dorm circa 1953

College Commons in Dewar circa 1958

Renovation of Dewar 1959

Leitzell was originally built as a men's dorm. At first, it housed 110 male freshmen. It was named after the second president of the college who was in office for ten years between 1929 to 1939. Leitzell encouraged Greek Life and helped to start Hartwick's Hilltops newspaper. In order to raise funds to build the dorm, Student Senate began a competition between groups on campus, Greek houses, and the faculty to see who could raise the most money.

Leitzell Hall in 1958

A typical dorm room in Leitzell Hall circa 1958

Holmes was originally built as a women's dorm that had capacity for 68 students. In 1977, it became a student-run dorm where the students were responsible for the building's maintenance, security, and government. The only requirement was that the building had to meet all fire codes. It was run much like the current townhouses on campus. The program was implemented because of the lack of off-campus housing. The program continued into the 1980s.

Construction of Holmes in 1961

Exterior of Holmes

Van Ess was originally an all male dorm. It was named for Louis Van Ess, who was a history professor at Hartwick College. During his youth, Van Ess was a solider in the First World War. Beginning in 1925, he attended the Harvard University Episcopal Theological School and became an Episcopalian Reverend. He was humorous, outspoken, and eccentric. Van Ess left his art collection to the college upon his death in1960, at a local party that was being given in his honor.

Construction of Van Ess

Exterior of Van Ess

Wilder was formerly known was Alumni Hall. It was originally built as an all female dorm. It was dedicated to the alumni because many had donated money to furnish the rooms in the hall. The name was later changed to Wilder in honor of President Phil Wilder. During his time in office, Wilder more than doubled the college's endowment. He also changed the founding date of the college to 1797, the year in which the seminary was originally founded. Among other contributions to the college, he supported the development of Curriculum XXI and completed the observatory. Meteorology had been an interest of Wilder's to since the Second World War, during which he trained many meteorologists in the Army Air Corps.

Construction of Alumni Hall in 1963

Johnstone Science Center Complex and Miller Hall was originally constructed in 1963 as the Miller Hall of Science. The renovation and expansion of Miller Science Building in 1999-2000 included the construction of the Johnstone Science Center, named in honor of John W. Johnstone '54, H'90.  It now includes student and faculty research areas, departmental teaching laboratories, a Nursing laboratory, a computer laboratory, a three-room greenhouse, teh Hoysrady Herbarium, mediated classrooms/lecture hall, a science communication center, and the related facilities of the Ernest B. Wright Observatory and the Robert R. Smith Environmental Field Station at Pine Lake. When it was first built, the building contained an animal room for rats, mice, rabbits, guinea pigs, and a monkey. A hothouse was also constructed as a place to house the Hartwick Boa Constrictor that was given to the college by its owner who could no longer care for it. The boa constrictor had stopped eating and was under great distress until it was brought to Hartwick and cared for by the biology department. Miller Science Hall also had an aquatic biology room and an operating room where veterinarians-to-be could practice their skills. A closed television circuit was built into the building with two cameras to enable transmission and reception between labs, classrooms, the lecture hall, and the operating room. In 1966, a petition was passed by the college to allow part of the parking lot to be flooded in order to construct an ice-skating rink. A plastic lining for the rink was purchased and for that winter students were allowed to ice-skate on their own Hartwick rink.

Student working in the lab in the 1970s

Lecture in  the 1960s

Smith was originally built as a men's dorm to house 258 students. The majority of the structure has remained intact throughout the years. The building consists of two wings that included a recreation room and a room for medical care. In the 1960s there was a friendly battle between the dorms during which the girls from the Holmes and Alumni (now known as Wilder) Hall would walk down to Smith at seven in the morning while banging tin cans, spoons, trash cans, and noise makers in hopes of waking up the Smith boys. In retribution, two hundred men from Smith took their guitars, noisemakers, and kazoos, to serenade the women of Alumni Hall.

Construction of Smith Hall in 1964

Smith lounge in 1960s

Saxton was named for Andrew B. Saxton who attended the Hartwick Seminary in the 1870s. He was the editor of the Oneonta Herald, now known as the Daily Star. In his spare time, he wrote and published poetry. His poem “Since Amy Died,” written about the death of one of his daughters, was published in 1890. Saxton's daughter, Bernice, left the bulk of her estate to Hartwick, which made the construction of the building possible. It was originally an all girls’ dorm in which the first floor lounge was co-ed. The rooms were color coordinated. The building also included five "ironing rooms" that were specifically designed as rooms in which the women could iron their clothes.

A dorm room in Saxton Hall circa 1970

Man hanging out of Saxton window circa 1970

Yager Museum and Stevens-German Library was constructed in 1967. The museum originally occupied the fourth and fifth floors, and was later moved to the first floor, where it now resides. The bell tower, that is now lit, holds the original 1815 Hartwick Seminary Bell. In 1974, there was a fire in the first floor of the building in which only one paperback book was lost. The building is named for Willard Yager, who was a naturalist, amateur anthropologist, and archaeologist. Yager assembled over 6,000 Native American artifacts in the course of his career. Upon his death in 1929, his sister Marion gave his collections and the downtown building in which they were housed, known as "The Long House", to Hartwick College. When she died in 1959, Marion Yager left much of her estate to the college.

Construction of Yager in 1967

Interior of the Stevens-German library

Exterior of the Yager museum and the Stevens-German library

Binder was constructed after the original field house was torn down to make room for Shineman Chapel. The new athletic building was named for Frederick Binder who was president of the college in the 1960s. During his time as president, enrollment tripled, nine new buildings were built, and a scholarship program was established. Binder introduced an inter-American studies program and a Junior year abroad. During his tenure, many interdisciplinary courses were taught, and discussion of severing ties with the Luther Church was initiated. During the Second World War, Binder was a PT Boat commander and went under Japanese fire to rescue members of the 503rd airborne in February of 1945. He left Hartwick to be the Associate Commissioner of Higher Education for New York State.

Construction of Binder

Construction of swimming pool in Binder

Shineman Chapel was built on the site where the old field house once stood. Shineman has no formal religious affiliation and its purposes have ranged over the years from informal worship to folk masses. The sanctuary room is known as “a room for Life”. The Celebration Room holds up to 150 people and is used for lectures, dances, and music recitals. The only permanent furniture is the pipe organ.

Groundbreaking for Shineman Chapel

Exterior of Shineman Chapel

Anderson was opened in 1973. The design included an outdoor sculpture garden that is still there today. College President Adolph Anderson, for whom it was named, was the director and board member of the Scandinavian Seminar, an educational program for American college students in West Germany. When he was inaugurated as the president of Hartwick College, Anderson stated that he intended to emphasize “Education through Art”. The King of Sweden bestowed the Royal Order of the North Star on Anderson for his nonprofit Scandinavian Seminar. In the time that he was president, he pushed for the enactment of the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and he acquired Pine Lake.

Construction of Anderson in 1972

Interior of Anderson

Perrella Wellness Center originally contained an infirmary with three patient rooms, each including two beds. It was constructed as part of Hartwick’s Campaign XXI, a five year effort to raise $21 million to enhance learning facilities. The building is named for Hartwick alumnus Frank Perrella.

Exterior of Perrella Wellness Center

Infirmary rooms in Perrella

Clark is one of the newest buildings on campus. It was built in 1991 and was the first building to be built since 1972. Clark was built to house the departments of English, math, foreign language, psychology, computer science, and a writing lab. The math and computer science departments were later moved to the Johnstone Science Building. Clark was constructed where the old Cardboard Alley had been.

Exterior of Clark circa 1991

Cardboard Alley circa 1950

Golisano Hall will be the newest addition to Hartwick Campus. Construction on this building will begin in the spring of 2007. Once completed, the new building will be a total of 36,000 square feet and will include reception areas, lecture halls, and study lounges.

Golisano Hall

Golisano Hall June 2008

In conclusion, it is important to not only understand the vitality of these buildings to the college’s history, but also to respect them as artifacts of the time in which they were built. They have lived on through the ages and experienced the events of the Great Depression to Civil Rights Movement and the atrocity on September 11th. Maybe one should ponder the old cliché “if walls could talk”, these buildings would have memories that would rival those of anyone who sits in their classrooms or wanders their halls. Therefore, they should be understood and valued as any other elder of society would be.