By Martin Suydam, Class of 1965
In the late 1800s, Norwich University consisted of two imposing structures on “The Hill”—Jackman and Dodge Halls. Today, with 53 buildings and counting, the campus evokes pride in all graduates. The buildings of Norwich, both past and present, have generated a lot of memories over the years.
Much has changed about both the buildings and the landscape. For instance, the maple trees, now very mature, that line the Upper Parade Ground were planted in 1965 on what was then a bare, flat-topped hill. That same year, two historic structures, Old Jackman Hall and Old Dodge Hall were demolished to provide space for the new Jackman Hall at the north end of The Hill. Classes that followed after 1969 would have no memory of those great old buildings.
Old Jackman (the barracks), erected around 1868, was the first Northfield campus building, after the University moved from its original location in Norwich, Vermont. Jackman was named for Alonzo Jackman, an 1836 graduate of Norwich, teacher, Civil War veteran, and proponent of the Transatlantic telegraph cable.
Old Dodge, erected in 1892, was the second building. It was named for its donor, Grenville Dodge, a Norwich graduate, general in the Civil and Indian Wars, and leader of the enterprise creating the Transcontinental Railroad. During the early 1960’s Dodge housed the Military Science classrooms and faculty offices.
Both Old Dodge and Old Jackman were Second Empire architectural style buildings, with a four-sided roof that provides the advantages of a sloped roof while maximizing headroom on the top floor. All rooms had high ceilings and large windows, before the era of air conditioning, so were very comfortable. Winter cold was an altogether different situation! All that glass and the volume of air in the rooms required lots of heat to keep warm.
Buildings are mute, but stories about them and their occupants are not. When reminiscing during my 50th reunion weekend with old friends, many stories surfaced about Old Jackman and Old Dodge.
Many former cadets associate Old Jackman and Old Dodge with the tradition of disciplinary tours—one tour meant marching around the Upper Parade Ground with a rifle for 50 minutes. One classmate of mine walked over 186 miles of tours (to Boston and back) in front of those long ago demolished buildings. That must be a record. Added to the penalty of marching his tours was that they were done alone in freezing rain, sleet, and snow. His name will be anonymous, but he is clearly distinguished in the minds of his classmates – clever and truthful to the honor code of Norwich. He was a master of the creative prank but a truthful young man, and despite his antics and being a Senior Private (a cadet with no rank), he was selected as a member of the Honor Committee and Skull and Swords.
He recalled recently that after several hours of marching in the sleet and snow, bundled up with scarf, jacket, and flaps pulled down on his mountain military hat, the Major had the Officer of the Day bring him inside in order the “chew him out.” However, he was brought in so fast, he had no time to unplug the earphones he had plugged in to a small radio blasting music inside the hat. He could hear nothing from the flapping mouth of the Major.