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#192 – Norwich University in Brick and Stone

Archer Greenhalgh 200 Things about Norwich, Special Events Leave a Comment

 Cadets line up in front of "Old" Dodge Hall on the Norwich University campus in Northfield, Vermont, approximately 1892-1899.

Cadets line up in front of “Old” Dodge Hall on the Norwich University campus in Northfield, Vermont, approximately 1892-1899.

As we continue to wend our way toward the 200th of our “200 Things,” this week we thought we’d tackle one of the topics that we get asked about: the (very brief) history of the university’s oldest and most notable buildings.

As Norwich University has grown and evolved over the years, its physical presence has included an impressive sprawl of facilities throughout the towns of Norwich, Vt.; Middletown, Conn.; and Northfield, Vt. Here we focus on a few of the most iconic, historic buildings that have shaped NU as we know it today.

Buildings in Norwich, Vt.

South Barracks, completed 1820: You may not realize that while the year 1819 saw the groundbreaking for the first building of the American Literary, Scientific, and Military Academy, Captain Partridge’s school had no working facilities or enrolled students until the following year, 1820. The South Barracks famously burned nearly to the ground in 1866. There were no known injuries or deaths as a result of the fire, nor is there any proof of foul play.

North Barracks, constructed circa 1830-1832: The less mythologized of the two buildings erected on our original campus, the North Barracks was built after the Academy returned from its brief sojourn in Middletown, Ct. It was untouched by the South Barracks fire, but in a dark coincidence, it also burned down many years later, in 1897.

Buildings in Northfield, Vt.

“Old” Jackman Hall, completed circa 1868: For nearly 25 years, the original Jackman Hall was the only building on the relocated and rebuilt campus of Norwich University. It served as barracks, classrooms, administration, and more. After falling into disrepair, “Old” Jackman was demolished in 1964 to make way for “New” Jackman in 1965.

“Old” Dodge Hall, completed 1892: As the turbulent 19th century came to a close, Norwich began to outgrow the original Jackman Hall, and Dodge was built to accommodate classrooms and offices. Like its predecessor and neighbor, Dodge was demolished in 1964 to make way for the “New” Jackman Hall in 1965.

Dewey Hall, completed 1902: The cornerstone was laid for this new administration building amid much fanfare when Admiral George Dewey, Class of 1855, visited campus in 1899. Completed three years later, Dewey Hall is the oldest of the major buildings on campus still standing.

Alumni Hall, completed 1906: When it became clear that a second barracks building was needed, the university raised the funds from its grateful alumni with the original idea of naming it Partridge Hall after our founder. It was eventually decided to instead commemorate the faithful sons of Norwich who had made the building possible. Evidence has yet to surface of the rumored deaths in the basement of Alumni Hall, though they remain an iconic part of the building’s lore.

Carnegie Library/Chaplin Hall, completed 1908: Funds for the university’s first dedicated library building were furnished by famed businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who was a personal acquaintance of Grenville Dodge, Class of 1851. The building was renovated and renamed Chaplin Library in 1953 in honor of trustee Henry Chaplin, and converted to a classroom building when Kreitzberg Library opened in 1993.

Ainsworth Hall, completed 1910: Ainsworth was originally built as a station for the U.S. Weather Bureau. The university acquired it in 1955 and initially dedicated it as a replacement for the original Ainsworth Infirmary.

Stables and Riding Hall, 1919-1920: After World War I, NU invested in infrastructure to house its robust mounted cavalry program. The stables that were constructed in 1919 are still standing today, now known as the Student Services Center. The riding hall—named after Moses Taylor, a student who was killed in World War I—was later converted to a hockey arena and eventually taken down when Kreitzberg Arena was built.

Plumley Armory, completed 1929: The new armory provided needed space for drills, athletic contests, dances, and other events. It was constructed during the presidency of Charles Plumley, Class of 1896 and dedicated in his honor in 1962.

White Chapel, completed 1941: This building was originally called White Hall and served as the mess hall until Harmon Hall was constructed in 1955, at which point White was converted to its current use as a chapel. The renovation included the addition of a steeple.

The second half of the 20th century saw an explosion of growth on campus during the presidency of Ernest Harmon, with the construction of over a dozen new buildings including several of the barracks that grace the Upper Parade Ground. The Harmon era concluded with the demolition of Old Jackman and Old Dodge in 1964 to make way for the construction of “New” Jackman Hall in 1965.

Of course Norwich has only continued to grow since this time. These are just a few highlights of the evolution of Norwich’s iconic campus as the university has matured and expanded over its first 200 years.

A complete timeline of Norwich’s buildings can be found in the appendices of Citizens and Soldiers: The First 200 Years of Norwich University.

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