Constructed in 1896, this was the first building completed on the east side of Library Lane. Although it was built for James Patterson, Professor of Mathematics, he stayed there only one year before leaving the College. In 1898, Professor Sidney Ashmore, Professor of Latin Language and Literature, moved in. The Ashmores were friends of Mrs. Perkins, and their son Sidney played with little Nathan Hale. Mrs. Perkins sympathized with Mrs. Ashmore when Sigma Phi decided to build their house next to them.
"She is distracted to think of herself between two Fraternity Houses; indeed one naturally hates to have any house there. There is such a pretty view" (March 10, 1904).
Mrs. Ashmore often entertained students and faculty in her home. Unfortunately, the house was also often uncomfortable: one winter the Ashmores wore shawls and put rugs over their feet to stay warm; another time Mrs. Perkins reported that
"the poor Ashmore's [sic] roof leaks down on the new Dining Room ceiling + the nasty cheap lead pipes have burst + their lawn is dug up again!!!" (undated letter, 1904).
The building remained a faculty residence until it was remodeled to house the first women students to arrive on campus in 1970. Previously known by its occupants' names, the building is now called John Blair Smith House in honor of the first President of Union College.
Constructed between 1855 and 1856, Geological Hall was designed in keeping with Ramée's general plans for the Union campus and originally contained the College chapel, natural history museum, and library, as well as the College Treasurer's office. Entered from South Lane, the interior was designed by Eliphalet Nott and Jonathan Pearson (College Treasurer and librarian) in consultation with architect William L. Woollett. The chapel was the site of mandatory morning services, previously held in South Colonnade, and for many years was the only space large enough on campus for student body meetings. It was thus at the heart of campus life.
Mrs. Perkins and her family frequently attended programs held in the chapel, conveniently located adjacent to her garden. On March 9, 1903, for example, she wrote, "There was a scientific lecture in the Chapel a few evenings ago on the subject of the new discovery, Radium." Among other notable events she mentions in connection with the chapel are the installation of electric lighting in 1895, various literary lectures, a speech by theologian Lyman Abbott, a slide show, an exhibit of color photographs, funeral services for Union College Professor of Natural Philosophy John Foster, and Founder's Day addresses, including one by her husband Maurice Perkins. Although Mrs. Perkins loved the plants that she grew along its outer walls, she thought of the chapel itself, which at the time featured rows of wooden theatre seats, as "bare and dreary" (October 20, 1899).
After the chapel moved to the newly constructed Memorial Chapel in 1925, the space quickly became known as "Old Chapel." Over the years the building has continued to provide room for a wide variety of changing academic departments, administrative offices, student organizations and social spaces, as well as meetings and lectures.
The Perkins family lived in the faculty apartment of South Colonnade, which had been occupied previously, although briefly, by a number of other professors and administrators including College President Eliphalet Nott. Constructed in 1815, South Colonnade in its early years contained recitation rooms, laboratories, the College chapel, Phi Beta Kappa meeting space, and administrative offices. Professor Maurice Perkins and his wife moved into the two-story faculty apartment in 1865, and Mrs. Perkins made a home there for the next fifty-seven years, raising her family, receiving visitors, writing, giving lectures, gardening, and generally participating in College life from this central vantage point.
Mrs. Perkins noted that her house, unlike many others, had its comforts even in winter. "The Book room and Parlour have been delightful, as cosy as possible," she wrote on February 15, 1901, although she quickly added, "but nothing could keep upstairs decent. The kitchen has been a howling wilderness." Indeed, her letters often included complaints about the house, especially during the colder months. One time. the water in the bathroom froze, and the plant room suffered due to a large hole under the bathroom window: "The clapboarding on the outside has fallen and slipped to such an extent, that it is impossible to keep the cold out." (January 21, 1895) Another time it was the heating system itself that caused a problem: "The gas from the furnace fairly belched out in my room Wednesday." (November 29, 1901) A different kind of challenge occurred in 1900, when Mrs. Perkins' grandson, Maurice, was quarantined due to scarlet fever, and part of the house, including the bathroom, had to be shut off. Afterwards, the area was fumigated and repainted.
When Professor Perkins died in 1901, his daughter Rose and son-in-law Edward Everett Hale (Jack), who was the College's Professor of Rhetoric and Logic at the time, moved in with Mrs. Perkins. On January 1, 1910, the house was destroyed by a fire but was soon rebuilt. Rose left in 1933, a year after her husband's death. Another professor briefly lived there, until South Colonnade was entirely rebuilt as a dining hall and faculty and student lounge in 1935-1936. Named Hale House in honor of Professor Hale, it is now used for special events.
The first occupant of the northern faculty apartment in South College was none other than Eliphalet Nott. After he moved elsewhere on campus, it passed to several professors until coming to James Stoller, Professor of Biology and Geology, in 1893. As Mrs. Perkins’s closest neighbors, the Stollers and their children were a constant, although often unwelcome, presence in her letters. Playmates for Mrs. Perkins’ little grandson Maurice Hale were few, but she quickly concluded that the Stollers were a bad influence on him. She attributed numerous pranks to the Stoller children, such as cutting down the grapevine in her garden or throwing bricks at a recitation room door in front of College President Raymond and several professors. ''The other day Hugh [Stoller] got a switch and switched the Benedict cow, till her sides had welts on them. He said Maurice began it but fortunately the gardener saw it all, and said Maurice did not touch her with his switch'' (May 24, 1901). Mrs. Perkins was very glad when the Stollers went on vacation. Although she criticized the parents for not disciplining their children properly and considered Professor Stoller dull, she admitted that he also had many ''fine traits.''
After Stoller left in 1925, the apartment was given to a series of administrators until 1977, when it was converted into student dormitory rooms. It is now part of the Sorum Minerva House.
Mrs. Perkins lovingly cared for her garden on the south side of the Chapel/Geological Hall from 1866 to 1920, almost the entire time she was at Union. Beginning as a vegetable garden, it was soon taken over by flowers. Although it now takes up just a small section next to Old Chapel, it once stretched further west behind Hale House and often attracted passers-by and campus visitors. “The Trumpet vine is stunning, far up the corner it holds forth great clusters of its burning trumpets, and is a sight which arrests everybody” (July 31, 1900).
Mrs. Perkins often wrote about her struggles and progress in the garden. Sadly, droughts frequently destroyed many of her plants, yet she still managed to grow tulips, lilies of the valley, irises, dahlias, and clematis, among dozens of others. She also wrote of her cherry tree, pear tree, and creeper plants, as well as the installation of cut stone paths in 1895 and her enjoyment of the birds and butterflies that flew about her plantings. “Everything looks lovely in the garden; …my soul revels in the beauty of it all. I am fairly tipsy with joy” (July 29, 1904). The incursion of others on her garden was not always a source of happiness, however. She was greatly displeased when an electric pole that was needed to provide lighting in the chapel was placed in an unsightly position just outside the garden in January of 1895. But by 1900, she had covered even that eyesore with a climbing shrub.
Every October, Mrs. Perkins would pack up her garden until the spring, but the plant room in her house provided flowers in the winter. In 1900, she wrote a poem about her garden called “Paradise … in … Winter…” in The Checkerberry, the family’s Christmas literary endeavor. In 1926, a few years after Mrs. Perkins’s death, one of her daughters erected a gateway and the commemorative plaque which now hangs outside the wall of the remaining garden.
After years of complaining about the condition of the College's outdoor gymnastic equipment, Union students finally were able to celebrate the opening of a dedicated campus gymnasium in June of 1874. Eliphalet Nott Potter (Union College Class of 1861 and College President from 1871 to 1884) may have even designed the building himself, while students raised around half of the $6000 needed for its construction. The gymnasium contained at various times an exercise hall (also used for dances), dressing and bath rooms, bowling alleys, an armory for the drill team, a tennis court, a small basketball court, and a batting cage.
Mrs. Perkins, who faithfully reported College athletic news to her son but had no particular reason of her own to be interested in a gymnasium, mostly mentioned the building in the context of obtaining money for its renovation. Despite several such renovations to the gymnasium over the years, students were still not satisfied with it. At the beginning of the 20th century, the hay stored on the second floor created dust below, and even the 1905 addition of steam heat, electric lights, improved showers and a new entrance did not end agitation for a better facility. When the Alumni Gymnasium was built in 1914, the old gymnasium was converted into a dormitory known as Old Gym Dorm. Old Gym Hall was eventually also occupied by a museum of College history, an art gallery, and the mail room until various administrative offices took possession beginning in 1951. The building now houses, and is known as, the Becker Career Center, the facility having been rededicated in 1981 in honor of Stanley R Becker (Union College Class of 1940), who funded extensive renovations that year.
South College, like its twin to the north, was one of the first buildings to be erected on the present campus. Opened in 1814 and built in keeping with the plan devised by Eliphalet Nott and Joseph Jacques Ramée, the construction of this particular structure was supervised by Nott himself. Although primarily serving as a student residence, it also once housed recitation rooms, faculty apartments, meeting rooms for fraternities and other student organizations, such as the Philomathean Society, the college chapel, and administrative offices. The dormitories were separated into three distinct sections with brick-paved hallways and wooden stairways. In 1872, some of the rooms were remodeled in a style resembling the modern suite system.
In 1895, Mrs. Perkins wrote that President Raymond had given two rooms on the ground floor of the middle dormitory section to the College YMCA. “They are thrown into one room by a very large door and painted and papered very prettily, and will be furnished by the ladies of the town… In the back room meetings can be held, and the front room will be a sort of parlour” (May 16, 1895). Conditions in the student dormitory itself deteriorated, but it was finally renovated thanks to the Class of 1899. “Jimmy Vander Veer made a good speech at the Alumni dinner saying that his class has assessed themselves two hundred and fifty dollars to pay the expenses of sending requests for small subscriptions toward remodeling the South College. Putting in steam and light and water etc.” (June 30, 1899). Bathrooms were also added to the top three floors as a result of this effort.
Externally, the building has not changed significantly, but several additional major internal renovations have since taken place. The building is now occupied by two Minerva Houses, Green and Sorum.
Silliman Hall was built in 1900 to house the College’s YMCA and other student organizations, such as the Philomathean Society and the Adelphic Society. It was a gift from Horace Brinsmade Silliman (Union Class of 1846), who believed that “a pronounced Christian character and life is not alien from hearty good fellowship.” Silliman Hall was the first multi-purpose College building to be constructed on campus since Washburn Hall in 1883, and represented the start of President Raymond’s revitalization of the College. It was designed by Albert W. Fuller, the architect of the Alpha Delta Phi House in 1898, and later the College’s General Engineering Building. The hall provided student meeting rooms, a trophy room, and an apartment for the student president of the YMCA. In 1904, Silliman provided another $10,000 dollars for its maintenance.
As a personal friend of President and Mrs. Raymond, Mrs. Perkins was among the first in the campus community to hear information about the new building, which she in turn reported to her son Roger. In a letter from June 27, 1899, she wrote about the donation of a YMCA building by Mr. Silliman, noting that he did not want to draw attention to himself (he was not publicly acknowledged as the donor until a year later). Although Mrs. Perkins mentioned that the building would have a swimming pool, one does not seem to have been built. She considered the final design of the hall beautiful and was disappointed when pouring rain ruined the day of its dedication. The building’s proximity to the Perkins residence allowed Mrs. Perkins to observe not only its construction, but also many of events eventually held there, including concerts and receptions. One evening social, attended by her son-in-law, was meant to bring professors and students closer together. Mrs. Perkins watched from the house, writing, “From the bath room window we could see Silliman Hall a blaze of light and festive heads bobbing past the windows” (March 13, 1904).
Over the years, Silliman Hall has undergone many renovations; after the YMCA left the building, it provided a home for many other organizations. The building currently houses a variety of administrative offices.
This house was built in 1872 as a home for the College President at the time, Eliphalet Nott Potter. Its construction, which was funded by Potter's father-in-law Joseph Fuller, was necessitated by the fact that after the death of former President Eliphalet Nott in 1866, his widow Urania continued to occupy the original president's house on campus for most of the time until her own death some two decades later.
During the time period covered by Mrs. Perkins' letters, the south half of the building was occupied by Frank Sargent Hoffman, Professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy, while the north half belonged to the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. Far from objecting to the presence of a fraternity in his house, Professor Hoffman had actually been the one who invited them, being himself a member of the society. Mrs. Perkins writes of her son-in-law, whose fraternal loyalties were elsewhere, "Jack dined at Hoffman's and had heavy glass tumblers with Phi Gamma Delta blown on them, which he says destroyed his appetite" (November 12, 1899).
Professor Hoffman lived in this building, also known as "The Potter house" and "Fuller Hall", with his first wife Jessie B. Lathrop until her death in 1893. He remarried in 1900 and remained in the house with his second wife Rebecca Russell Lowell and their family until a fire gutted the house in 1918, killing Hoffman's grandson and a nursemaid. The house was rebuilt after this tragedy, losing its distinctive mansard roof but gaining a new identity as the central College Administration Building, now named Feigenbaum Hall after brothers Armand V. and Donald S. Feigenbaum, graduates and benefactors of Union College.
Completed in 1861, this house was built for President Eliphalet Nott and his wife Urania. It was designed by Nott’s grandson, Edward Tuckerman Potter (Union College Class of 1853) according to ideas suggested by Joseph Jacques Ramée’s original plans for the campus. Although Nott himself only spent five years there before he died, his wife continued living in the house until sometime shortly before her own death two decades later. Therefore, subsequent presidents had to find other accommodations. The next president to live in this house was its eighth, Harrison Webster (Union College Class of 1868 and Professor of Natural History), who held the president’s office from 1888 to 1894. During the entire period of Mrs. Perkins’ letters, the house was occupied by the ninth president of the College, Andrew Van Vranken Raymond (the last of Union’s four alumni presidents, Union College Class of 1875).
Although Mrs. Perkins admired President Raymond and recognized the challenges of running the financially struggling college, she was sometimes critical of his administrative abilities. “If Dr. Raymond would give the Dean power, and uphold the Faculty, all might go well, but he is away all the time, really knows nothing about the boys, or the details of anything, and yet will not give the power to any one else” (March 30, 1901). His wife was a close friend of Mrs. Perkins, frequently sharing confidential College business with her. Often ill, Mrs. Raymond nevertheless hosted many social events, sometimes insisting that Mrs. Perkins attend.
After the death of his wife in 1907, President Raymond left the College and returned to his ministry. The house, renovated several times in the twentieth century, remains the home of the Union College President to this day.
Because the College’s recitation room for Classics adjoined the faculty apartment at the south end of South College, for many years this residence was awarded to a professor of Classics. Thus, during the time frame of the Perkins letters, the apartment was occupied by Henry Whitehorne, distinguished Professor of Greek Language and Literature, who moved in around 1873 and remained there until his death in 1901. Mrs. Perkins lived nearby and sometimes commented on the trees and plants outside the Whitehorne residence. Although he was a respected faculty member, Mrs. Perkins also noted that some people were impatient for the long-lived Whitehorne to leave: “[John Ira Bennett, Union College Class of 1890 and Professor of Greek from 1895 to 1920] has been on the steps of the throne like the Prince of Wales so long (waiting for Whitehorne) that it has been a bit demoralizing” (March 12, 1901). In a break with tradition, after Whitehorne’s death the apartment was offered to the new Chemistry Professor, Richard Curtis. “Dr Curtis is to have the Whitehorne’s just as it is… no steam, all out of repair. They have no money, and no furniture and a new baby so I am wondering what they will do in that great barrack in our cold winters” (October 11, 1901). Perhaps understandably, Curtis only stayed at Union until 1904.
The residence passed to other professors until it was converted to offices and later a dormitory. It is now part of the Green Minerva House.
Sigma Phi Place was completed in 1905 and became the longtime home of the Sigma Phi Society, the second national fraternity founded at Union. Because the Society already owned a chapter house off-campus, they were not in a hurry to build another one inside the College gates; however, after a $40,000 bequest in the late nineteenth century, they began planning its construction.
The Perkins family had a warm relationship with Sigma Phi, and at least once Rose Perkins danced all night at a Society banquet. Mrs. Perkins admired the fraternity’s loyalty to the College, and in 1899, asked her son Roger to speak to a possible donor about the construction of the new chapter house. However, the decision to build it just inside the Payne Gate along Library Lane upset Mrs. Perkins; earlier, the Society had thought of locating their new home on the northern side of campus near the Perkins’ beloved Kappa Alpha House, and Mrs. Perkins thought another house along Library Lane would ruin the view. Her friend Mrs. Ashmore, who lived along the Lane, also had no desire to live between two fraternity houses (the Alpha Delta Phi House having just been completed on the other side of her home in 1898).
Sigma Phi was evidently a very loyal Society. After the death of Professor of Natural Philosophy John Foster, one of their own, Mrs. Perkins reported that the Sigma Phi’s led the group of students helping out at the funeral and stayed up all night in the College chapel with the body. When Professor Perkins died, Mrs. Perkins received a kind letter from them and wrote, “I did not expect such a thing, but Maurice was such a kind friend to the Societies, that it was very appropriate” (October 11, 1901).
In 1927, Sigma Phi made additions to the house, and they stayed there until 2005, when the building was renovated and became one of the College’s seven Minerva houses, now known as Breazzano House.
This building served as the chapter house of the Alpha Delta Phi Society, which was founded at Hamilton and came to Union in 1859. Construction lasted from January of 1895 until Commencement of 1898, although Mrs. Perkins wrote in 1896 that it was almost completed. The house, which cost $19,332 to build, was designed by Albert W. Fuller, the architect of Silliman Hall and later of the General Engineering Building. The society previously had rooms on State Street and, according to Mrs. Perkins, took Delta Phi's house for a year in 1896.
Mrs. Perkins often mentioned the "Alpha Deltas" in her letters to her son, talking about their news, members, and events. Mrs. Perkins did not always approve of the boy's behavior, such as whistling at her maids or making the chaperones at their dances uncomfortable. On one occasion, Mrs. Perkins' daughter Rose chaperoned a dance at the fraternity and reported that she would not do it again due to the disgraceful behavior of the girls. Mrs. Perkins summarized Rose's objections to her son Roger on March 9, 1903: ''They do not dance all the time but sit together men and girls on a big sofa as close as sardines in a box, and occasionally throwing themselves across some fellows [sic] knee. Altogether she thought them an odious ill behaved set. She said it was altogether different at the Kaps. The boys were very nice to her and she had nothing personal to complain of.'' Although there was some fraternity rivalry, in February of 1897, members of Kappa Alpha, Sigma Phi, Psi Upsilon and Alpha Delta Phi formed the Union College Social Club, where, according to Mrs. Perkins, they would meet in each other's rooms to smoke and play cards.
The oldest surviving fraternity house on the Union campus, the building was renovated by the College when the society's lease was up, reopening in 2001 as the Grant Hall Admissions Center.
The foundation for the Chi Psi Lodge, the campus home of the fifth national fraternity founded at Union College, was laid in 1901. Located between the Alpha Delta Phi and Psi Upsilon houses, the building was formally known as the Philip Spencer Memorial Building in honor of one of its student founders. The Chi Psi fraternity remained in residence in the building for over 100 years.
Although Mrs. Perkin's family was often involved in fraternity life, this particular society did not always land in her good graces. She writes, "The Chi Psis have been having a great convention here, and a great ball last night and the carriages woke me up at four o'clock, and I was very indignant, considering [sic] what society it was!" (May 16, 1902).
The building was renovated and greatly expanded in 1928. In 2004, after further renovations, it became one of the seven Minerva Houses on campus, Golub House.
Home to the Psi Upsilon Society, this building was the first fraternity house to be constructed on the Union College campus. Psi Upsilon was the fourth national fraternity founded at Union, started by a group of sophomores and freshmen in 1833. The society petitioned the trustees for a building site in 1884, originally planning to build at the foot of the Union Street hill. Construction in the final location did not begin until 1890 and lasted until 1892, immediately prior to which the society had meeting rooms on State Street.
Mrs. Perkins often mentioned Psi Upsilon in her letters, relating news of new members and events such as dances and “smokers.” After attending one afternoon tea at the house, Mrs. Perkins wrote, “It is a comfortable homey sort of a house and the piazza is fine” (June 27, 1899). In 1901, Professor Perkins and Jack had dinner with the Psi Upsilons, which Mrs. Perkins thought was an excellent way to establish closer bonds between students and professors. A year later a fire, likely started by an electric wire, broke out at the Psi Upsilon house, and Mrs. Perkins reported the event in great detail. The firemen had trouble putting it out, because the two hydrants by the house were frozen and a hose had to be carried up Union Street. “The Eastern part is pretty well burned up, and the inside of the house ruined I fear. What with water and smoke, everything is black or drenched” (February [?], 1902). The homeless students were taken in by other fraternities, and the belongings they managed to save by throwing them out the windows were temporarily stored in the YMCA building. It is unclear how long it took before repairs were completed, but fraternity activities continued, and Mrs. Perkins wrote in 1904 that a skating rink was ploughed out near the Psi Upsilon house because of the convenient low ground there.
In 1916, extensive renovations were made to the interior, and the house was put to use as quarters for officers during World War I. The original structure was razed in 1937, and a new one, which better matched Joseph Jacques Ramée’s designs for campus buildings, was constructed on the same site. In 2004, the second Psi Upsilon house was renovated and reopened as Beuth House, one of the seven Minerva Houses on campus.
The Schenectady Free Public Library Association purchased this building site from the College, and the facility was constructed between 1901 and 1903 with the support of $15,000 from the General Company and $50,000 from Andrew Carnegie.
Originally the Association had planned to build the library further west, well off campus at the corner of Union and Jay Streets. An eager library user, Mrs. Perkins did not approve of this location because it was farther from the trolley and surrounded by small houses. Although she argued that either upper State Street or the Union College Pasture would be a better spot, she was upset when part of the latter was indeed sold as a site for the library. However, she was consoled by the idea that the College would be a more appropriate setting for the “dignity and beauty of the building” (March 12, 1901) and by the thought that the money Union received for the land might go toward building a badly needed new dormitory.
Mrs. Perkins was unimpressed by the ceremony that marked the beginning of the library’s construction: “There was a great laying of the New Library cornerstone by the Masons, and many wavings and clappings to the four corners of the earth and other capers. I suppose it is because I am ignorant, but they do seem very funny doings” (May 6, 1902). Nonetheless, Mrs. Perkins was a frequent patron of the library once the building was completed.
After the public library moved to a larger building in downtown Schenectady in 1970, the College repurchased the land as well as the structure and used it for offices before converting it into dormitories in 1973. At that time it was named Webster House in honor of former College President Harrison Webster.
The Pasture, also called the College Park, was once an attractive territory stretching from the Terrace Wall westward to Park Place in Schenectady (one block west of the current main campus). Sheep, horses and cows belonging to professors and townspeople grazed among its trees, despite the antics of mischievous students who were know to “kidnap” the animals for College pranks. In the late 1890s, President Raymond and the Perkins’ son-in-law, Professor of Rhetoric and Logic Edward Everett Hale, also established a golf course there.
At the time Mrs. Perkins was writing, the College’s financial problems led it to sell off huge portions of the Pasture. In 1901, for example, Union sold one parcel for the construction of Schenectady’s Public Library and successfully divided up and sold an additional forty-four building lots on its former open space. Mrs. Perkins regretted the shrinking of this lovely green area: “It was absolutely necessary, as Park Place is to be paved, and we would have to pay half, and it would be destroying. I don't talk about it; I know it has to be” (undated letter, 1901).
Eventually, the Pasture only stretched to the newly created Seward Place. The remaining area had varied uses as a tree nursery, a skating rink, a baseball field, and even parking for a tank manufacturing company during the Second World War. The building of a number of new dormitories around the middle of the twentieth century closed off the westward facing campus planned by Ramée and today, West Beach is all that is left of the Pasture.
Most of the College's athletic activities and games during its first century took place on this field. Students started playing baseball and football regularly there in the 1870s. Class games were also held in this open area.
Because the Athletic Field was right across from her house, Mrs. Perkins often sent her son the College's athletic news, including scores and her assessment of any new equipment in use on campus, such as bleachers or megaphones, the latter of which she found "mournful and mooing." She often reported the action as it was happening, reporting in undated letter from 1895, for example, "There is a furious ball game going on [and] an immense deal of shouting and cussing." Watching a game from her windows was not always a safe pastime. Right before a match against Colgate in 1899, "a ball came smashing in and broke the window and the ball rolled into the middle of the room. The two culprits' 'skinned away', in the language of their kind and I retain the ball" (May 4, 1899.) Regarding another game in 1900, attended by at least 1000 people, she noted that the seats in the stands cost an extra fifteen cents.
The Athletic Field became known as Library Field after 1905 when the library moved into the Nott Memorial. It was no longer needed for intercollegiate games once Alexander Field was established on the eastern end of the campus in 1913, but intramural games and varsity practices were still held there. It was also the site of drills during the two World Wars and, in later years, the activities of the campus Air Force ROTC. It is now used for intramural sports, rugby games, outdoor ceremonies, and other types of College gatherings.
The building that appeared as a round and windowless “chapel” on the campus plan of Joseph Jacques Ramée was finally constructed, after the design of Edward Tuckerman Potter (Union College Class of 1853), as a sixteen-sided Alumni Hall that ultimately became a memorial to Eliphalet Nott and an iconic Union College landmark. Due to the College’s financial difficulties in the mid-nineteenth century, when the building was constructed, it took over 20 years to complete. Impractical for most uses when it opened in 1877 and very difficult to heat, social events were still sometimes held there. “The idiotic sophomores insisted upon having their soiree in the Middle Building! It is freezing ten inches from the big stov[e],” wrote Mrs. Perkins in 1897.
Student mischief was common in the “Round Building,” which also housed a modest museum for many years. Freshmen and sophomores fought to keep their class flags on top of the dome in November of 1903. Earlier that same year, Mrs. Perkins reported that some freshmen took the plaster casts of classical statues and the marble busts from the museum and put them on the Athletic Field’s baseball diamond, “the Discus thrower appropriately placed on the pitchers place, the Venus with uplifted arms on first base and so on, until for fielders etc. they were reduced to the small busts” (March 16, 1903). Believing that the building would soon crumble if not repaired, Mrs. Perkins was glad to see it turned into the campus library in the early 1900s thanks to a $40,000 gift from Andrew Carnegie, which helped fund the necessary renovations.
The library remained in the building until 1961, after which the building had varied uses, including serving as the College theatre and bookstore. Following extensive renovations and a rededication ceremony in 1995, it now houses a large multi-use hall, art galleries, and student study space.
Washburn Hall (or the Powers-Washburn Building) was built in 1883 during the administration of the College’s seventh president, Eliphalet Nott Potter (Union College Class of 1861). Although inspired by Joseph Jacques Ramée’s plans for the campus, its Victorian-style design by William Appleton Potter (Union College Class of 1864) featured red brick and molded ornaments that made it quite distinct from the stuccoed buildings that had been erected previously on the College grounds. Originally named for donations made in honor of Thomas Henry Powers as well as Edward Abiel Washburn (both of whom had a distant connection to the College), it was the first building at Union to carry its donors’ names. Providing at various points a home for the library, classrooms, numerous academic departments and administrative offices, student publications, the radio studio, theatre, bookstore, snack bar, a naval issues store, and the headquarters of the maintenance department, it boasted a bewildering variety of uses over its lifetime.
The central section of the building, originally called Washburn Memorial Hall, contained the College library from 1884, until its relocation to the Nott Memorial in 1903. The library was a long and handsome room with large balconies on two sides and served as a social space as well, twice hosting the Senior Ball. However, the library was quite cold until 1894, when President Raymond installed heat and electric lights. After the library left, the Civil Engineering Department took over the space.
Although Mrs. Perkins must have had a good view of Washburn Hall from her windows and made use of the library, she rarely mentioned the building. Once she drew attention to the fact that while the building had relatively comfortable rooms, people were often cold inside due to its many doors to the outside. She wrote, “It has been so cold all this week in the Red Building that the boys have had very few recitations, but to their sorrow the laboratory has been very comfortable” (March 4, 1896).
Eventually the College concluded that Washburn Hall not only clashed too much with the other buildings on campus, but also was too expensive to maintain. Its decision to build Schaffer Library right behind the building sealed Washburn Hall’s fate, and it was razed in 1963. Roger Hull Plaza now covers the place where it stood.
Early outdoor track and field meets were held in the College Grove on the southeastern portion of the campus. In 1893, a 390-yard track with banked curves replaced a shorter track that had been laid out there some seven years earlier. From 1893 to 1905, during the period of Mrs. Perkins’ letters, Union typically participated in two intercollegiate meets per year – usually doing poorly.
An exception was the performance of Charles Kilpatrick, Union’s best runner, who broke a world record for the half mile while wearing the College’s colors in September of 1895. Controversy surrounded Kilpatrick’s achievements, however, and Mrs. Perkins wrote at length about his time at Union. (Kilpatrick would eventually move on to Princeton, where additional controversies about his running career arose.) At the time Kilpatrick broke the world record, Union was already in trouble with its intercollegiate athletics league, which claimed that the College allowed athletes who were not bona-fide students to participate in competitions. Union itself was banned from competing in intercollegiate sports for three months once it was determined that it had previously allowed Kilpatrick to represent the College before he was eligible to do so. Union in turn banned Kilpatrick and three other runners from competing because of too many failing grades. After unsuccessfully trying to force the faculty committee to change their minds, the student athletic body went on strike and canceled the Union Track and Field program entirely. Mrs. Perkins wrote with some amusement that “the putting an end to athletics was to punish and terrify the faculty, and now they awake to see that the faculty though sorry for the boys, are not horrified, and even suspect that it may be a good thing” (May 11, 1896). The students soon realized the folly of their plan, and athletics resumed, but the Kilpatrick controversies resulted in the passing of new eligibility rules for college athletes nationwide.
The old running track no longer exists, although it would eventually be replaced by upgraded facilities on Alexander and Bailey fields.
The garden on the northern side of campus was begun in the 1830s by Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy Isaac Jackson at the encouragement of Eliphalet Nott, who suggested its cultivation as a means of improving Jackson’s health. The placement of a garden in this area had also been suggested by Joseph Jacques Ramée in his original designs for the College. Moving an existing vegetable patch, Jackson set up graveled paths, lilac hedges, shrubs, and geometric beds of lilies and roses in the area where Yulman Theater now stands. In the lower region (the area still occupied by the garden today), he planted seeds from around the world, although Mrs. Perkins once noted that it was hard to keep anything valuable down there. His garden was admired by John James Audubon among many others and was the site of the College’s Class Day exercises.
After Jackson’s death, his daughter Julia Jackson Benedict faithfully maintained the garden for forty-eight years. Considering it her personal property, she often chased students out, once even firing a shotgun from the balcony of her house overlooking the garden. In 1900, her own gardener shot his “mean” wife and, interestingly, Mrs. Perkins sympathized with him. She also sympathized with Julia Benedict on gardening matters, although they frequently disagreed about other matters. Mrs. Perkins also found the garden somewhat wild and wrote that she was concerned about her grandson going through the garden alone: “The bridges are high and shaky and the garden lonely and full of ambushes!” (May 16, 1899).
Pollution was often a problem in the garden, with the sewer on Nott Street overflowing and running into its brook. When Mrs. Benedict grew too old, the College took over responsibility for the garden, with help from students, faculty, and community members. Jackson’s Garden remains a popular campus attraction today.
The College brook flows from about a mile east of the present-day Union campus into the Mohawk River. Much of its visible length in Mrs. Perkins' day is now buried; the section between Terrace Lane and Seward Place, for example, was re-routed into an underground culvert in 1966.
Still visible within Jackson's Garden and celebrated in the Union College Alma Mater, the brook has mostly been an aesthetic feature of the campus, although it was sometimes used as a swimming hole and a water source. Pollution and flooding have often been a problem, however. Mrs. Perkins wrote about one instance when a break in a nearby drain caused sewage to flow into the brook. "As Rose is not there to watch, nobody saw it for ten days. It is horrible with nastiness and the sides covered with slime. [Assistant College Treasurer Charles B.] Pond had it stopped immediately, and it is better now, but the slime is still thick on the sides, and you can imagine the smell. Of course it ran into the pasture for the cows to drink, so they were taken out and there has been a great fuss" (May 20, 1902).
The brook is also known as Hans Groot's Kill, "kill" being derived from a Dutch word for "body of water" and "Hans Groot" being derived from a combination of the names of several early settlers in the area.
The oldest continuously active social fraternity in the country, the Kappa Alpha Society was founded at Union on November 26, 1825. For many decades, the members had meeting rooms in Schenectady, building their first campus house only in 1901. Originally, the house was planned to be near Psi Upsilon, across Library Lane from Mrs. Perkin's Garden, but it was decided that there were already too many houses in that area. Eventually the house was constructed in part of the College Grove along what was then called North or Laboratory Lane.
Mrs. Perkins showed a keen interest in the Kappa Alpha Society and frequently mentioned it in her letters, keeping her son Roger (a member) up to date on what was going on with pledges, current members, and alumni and giving news of events such as dances, teas, and dinners. "Rose chaperoned a dance at the Kaps last night, and had a very nice time. She says the girls were ever so much nicer than the Alpha Delts, and she danced all she wanted to" (February 22, 1903). Mrs. Perkins was particularly interested in the building of the chapter's house and was happy with the decision to build it on the corner along Laboratory Lane because it would give her beloved "Kaps" a lovely view of winter sunsets. As "one of the best looking Kap ladies here," Mrs. Perkins was pressured to attend, but ended up very much enjoying, Kappa Alpha's 75th anniversary celebration, which included a reception, a "very pretty" dance held in the Nott Memorial, and a sermon delivered by one Dr. Darling (November 27, 1900). In addition to encouraging other people to make donations to the society, Mrs. Perkins also gave Kappa Alpha some furniture for their house.
Two academic buildings were later built on either side of the fraternity house. As a celebration of their 100 year anniversary in 1925, the society essentially reconstructed it, keeping much of the interior structure but completely changing the exterior. During the World Wars the house was used as a YMCA center and then as a Navy sick bay. It was razed in 1967 to make room for the Science and Engineering Center.