South Hall

Audio

I prefer to speak of South Hall as the “grande dame” of the humanities...Queen of languages, philosophy, political science, and literature. To me she has always looked like a slightly top-heavy old frigate loaded to the “gunwales” reeling, veering about, sailing against - or - with the winds of changes, bulging and billowing with her precious cargo of Cornellians who fill her every square inch. -Professor of English Liz Isaacs ’39 “Echoes of South Hall."

South Hall is Cornell College’s third oldest building, completed in 1873 at the cost of $10,000. It is the only building constructed as a result of the students’ petition, as the men of the college felt left out because they weren’t given boarding facilities (women lived in Old Sem, which was then called the Ladies’ Boarding Hall).[1] Initially called the Gentlemen's Boarding Hall, or the Cornell Boarding Association (CBA), it contained twenty-two dorm rooms capable of housing two students each.[2] The first floor had a 2-room apartment for the cook of South Hall and her family, who worked in the basement dining hall.[3]

Living conditions were not ideal, and there is at least one recorded instance of students attempting to shoot at rats. Prior to the construction of the heating plant in 1917, wood stoves present in each of the dorms rooms were used to provide warmth.[4] Boarding costs were $1.25 per term, or $3.00 for a full year, comparable to the private housing rates many of the men already paid.[5] However, the strict rules enforced by the CBA made students reluctant to live there, and by 1891 the Board of Trustees decided to convert the building to classroom space, to better utilize the building.[6] Even though the building was used as classroom space, the YMCA built four showers and a tub in 1898, making this the first bathing facility on campus available to male students.[7]

Due to the decreasing number of residents, Cornell’s newly created music department began using the upper floor of the Gentlemen’s Boarding Hall in 1878, changing the name of the building to Conservatory Hall. After the building was remodeled in 1891, it ceased to be used for student housing, and the geology department took space on the first floor, while the galleries of the art department established themselves on the third. By 1906, the music conservatory abandoned the building for Lytle House, and the building became known as South Hall. The geology department would move to the third floor, while the first floor was shared by the English department and Cornell Academy, a prep school that was run by the college until 1921.[8]  At one point during the 1890s, South Hall hosted a natural history museum, which was the victim of a prank by several students. They broke into the building one night, and the following morning students walking to classes were greeted by a bear in a tree, an alligator in a fountain, and birds in various trees, all taken from the taxidermied animal exhibit.[9]

South Hall has, over the years, been host to almost every department. Until 1982, South Hall hosted the departments of geology, biology, chemistry, engineering, archaeology, psychology, history, political science, Greek, English, French, German, education, and secretarial training, in addition to art and music.[10] It also housed the commandant of the Cornell Cadets for a time in the early 1920s.[11] The basement in South Hall would later become the location for the Hillside Press, the first operating printing press at Cornell College.

In 1960, South Hall was renovated once more, with new floors, stairways, furnishings and a sprinkler system. These improvements appear to have been ineffective at revitalizing the building, as one professor called it “decayed, decrepit, psychologically depressing and a disgrace to the kind of education that took place here.”[12] By 1972, the Board of Trustees considered tearing the building down. Faculty and students rallied to save the building with a petition containing 155 signatures. But the plan to destroy the building was abandoned before they submitted the petition.[13]

On June 12, 1982, South Hall was rededicated after undergoing a series of renovations to make it suitable for the humanities departments.[14] Today, South Hall is home to the English and politics departments, ensuring the continued use of this historic building.

 

Images

Then-Now South Hall

Then-Now South Hall

A side-by-side comparison of South Hall in the 1920s and South Hall as seen on campus today. | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Hannah Robertson View File Details Page

South hall 1929-1930

South hall 1929-1930

South Hall | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

South hall (before 1982 renovation)

South hall (before 1982 renovation)

Students play on the quad outside College Hall, Norton Geology, and South Hall. The latter can be seen behind the students. | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown. View File Details Page

South Hall (Centennial Celebration)

South Hall (Centennial Celebration)

The re-dedication of South Hall during a celebration of its 100th year | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

Rock

Rock

The Rock, placed outside South Hall. | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

South Hall

South Hall

South Hall, taken from the road on the east side of campus | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

South Hall, 1996 Calendar

South Hall, 1996 Calendar

1996 Calendar picture of South Hall | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: unknown View File Details Page

South Hall as the class of '09 would remember her

South Hall as the class of '09 would remember her

Cornell Alumnus, South Hall Centennial Marked. Today's Cornellians see "old South" enfolded in trees. Made from glass negative | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

South Hall

South Hall

South Hall, taken next to College Hall. | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

South Hall (Interior)

South Hall (Interior)

The shelves of South Hall prior to the 1982 renovations. | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

South Hall (interior)

South Hall (interior)

The interior of South Hall prior to the 1982 renovations | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

South Hall

South Hall

Students hang out on the steps to South Hall | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Bob Campagna View File Details Page

South Hall

South Hall

Picture of South Hall taken from Palisades Road, 1890. Presented to the Cornell Archives Oct. 12, 1976 by Grace E. West '09 | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

The Hillside Press

The Hillside Press

Cornell student Jim Brooks(left) and geology professor Alan Coogan working paper cutter in South Hall basement. | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

Hillside Press in South Hall Basement. Used by English Department until early 1980's View File Details Page

South Hall, Mount Vernon, Iowa

South Hall, Mount Vernon, Iowa

South Hall as seen from 5th Street SWq | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

South Hall

South Hall

Students hung a banner on South Hall in preparation for a sporting event. | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

South Hall

South Hall

South Hall entrance, as seen today | Creator: Hannah Robertson View File Details Page

South Hall Classroom

South Hall Classroom

One of the classrooms in South Hall: originally this space belonged to the cook and her family | Creator: Hannah Robertson View File Details Page

South Hall Plaque

South Hall Plaque

The plaque presented to South Hall after the 1982 renovations with a short history of the building. | Creator: Hannah Robertson View File Details Page

Audio

Video

Cite this Page:

Brad Kane '18 and Hannah Robertson '18, “South Hall,” Mount Vernon History Tours, accessed November 24, 2020, http://ccomeka.com/mtvhistoryFINALCLONE/items/show/26.

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