Index Throwback: Williams Hall

Before Trowbridge and Hoben Halls, there was Williams Hall, an all-male dorm completed in 1849 and partially destroyed by fire in 1916.

Inside: Two Kalamazoo students study for exams in their dorm in the now defunct Williams Hall Dormitory.

By Katie Schmitz

In 1849, construction on a new men’s dormitory, named “Upper Hall,” was completed. The hall was located very close to where Hoben Hall stands today.  The hall was renovated and fit with electricity, steam heat, adjustable temperature water, and uniform furniture. Before this, coal stoves were still used to heat rooms.

Unfortunately for K, many of their renovations were ruined when the dormitory caught on fire in March of 1916 due to faulty wiring in the attic. Nobody was hurt, but the third and fourth floors of the hall were ruined, and many students lost all of their possessions.

Thankfully, insurance covered the damages, and the hall was rebuilt as a three-story building. Also, generous donations from the community helped the young men who lost their possessions. Shorty after the reconstructions were complete, the hall was renamed “Williams Hall,” after a man named Dean Clarke Benedict Williams who died in 1923 earthquake in Yokohama, Japan.

Although the Index did not put out an issue the month that the dorm caught fire, a few months later they reviewed the new renovations. “As one enters the large reception room on the first floor, his attention is at once drawn to the beautiful interior decorations, including new inverted electric lights and a magnificent open fire place.”

Again, however, the operation of the dormitory was fairly short lived, and all students were moved into the brand new Hoben Hall in 1937 and Williams Hall was completely demolished.

Williams Hall’s relatively short lifespan (compared to other K dorms) is not to say that it did not have an impact. According to a 1937 issue of the Index, Williams meant so much to one K alum, Van Tifflin K’1912, that he paid $10 for a brick of the demolished hall.

“He wishes the brick as a tangible evidence of the happy hours he spent there during the year 1908-09 and wishes the money to be used for the new Hoben Hall,” explained the article.

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