Solar Energy Project at Smith

June 15, 2011

With all the talk about renewable energy sources these days, and the current projects at Smith including the solar panels on top of the Campus Center, and the hands-on student work on solar houses in the Physics department and the Center for Design and Fabrication, the College Archives thought it would be interesting to look back at other junctures in Smith’s history where solar energy was utilized.

A 1948 solar house was designed and built by architect Eleanor Raymond in Dover, Massachusetts .  Raymond was a graduate of the Cambridge School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, which was formally associated with Smith College between 1934-1946.  The house was the only existing home heated solely with solar energy systems designed by Maria Telkes, a metallurgy researcher at MIT at the time.  The design lasted 2.5 years before corrosion and erosion of the tanks used to maintain the system took its toll.

In December 1949, Gladys A. Anslow, professor of physics, and a number of interested Smith alumnae took a tour of the Dover House.  The trip was designed to show the work and design of the house, and to garner support for establishing an Institute of solar design at a woman’s college.  Anslow, naturally, wished it to be housed at Smith and hoped the Board of Trustees would agree.  In her report to President Benjamin Fletcher Wright, she noted that the sponsoring group of women “…selected this institution because of its recognized interest in science, the existing graduate program, and the desire to have the prestige that will go to the sponsoring institution come to the alma mater of several of the sponsors.  It is believed that in addition to the prestige…there will eventually be income from patents similar to the income now enjoyed at many of the larger universities and institutions in this country.”  Other Smith women involved with the sponsoring group were Ruth H. French, ‘1902, Eleanor Raymond, CSA, Janice Tarlin, ‘1931, and Laura Cabot (Hodgkinson), ‘1922. [report by GAA, December 17, 1949]

The report was presented to the Board of Trustees in early 1950, and after further investigation and lengthy discussions, the idea was voted on, only to have the motion lost.  This did not deter Anslow or her colleagues in the Physics department from their investigations of solar energy.  In 1952, Nora M. Mohler, chairperson of the Physics department presented on “Our Unpaid Servant, Energy” at Alumnae College.

Unfortunately, this is where the trail ends in the College Archives documenting  Smith’s involvement with the Solar Energy Project of the late 1940s and early 1950s.   If you have any additional information about Smith’s involvement, we’d love to hear about it!

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Allen Recreational Fields

July 2, 2010

Among the many summer construction/renovation projects at Smith, is the replacement of grass with artificial turf on the portion of the Allen Fields used by the field hockey and lacrosse teams.  The improved field will allow more practice and competition time for the teams on a yearly basis, as well as eliminate the use of 900,000 gallons of water that irrigates the grass field.

This announcement led the Archives to look into the history of the sites named “The Allen Recreational Fields” (‘recreational’ was dropped when the 3rd and present site was opened).  Here’s what we found:

The first Allen Field was located in the area which now houses the Quad, between Paradise Road and Kensington Avenue.  It was a gift of Frank Gates Allen, a merchant and philanthropist in Illinois, who purchased the John Whittlesey estate along Elm Street and donated it to the College in 1904.  His wife, Minnie Florence Stephens was a member of the Class of 1883, and their daughter, Marjorie Allen (Seiffert), was a member of the Class of 1906.

Blueprint of Allen Field, 1904

Blueprint of Allen Field, 1904

The Allen Field included 2 basketball courts (middle), 13 tennis courts (middle, left), a volleyball court (upper right), and a field hockey pitch. (far left).  Allen Field was an extremely active site, as evidenced by the many images of sporting events found in student photograph albums in the College Archives.  In this image

Outdoor basketball game on Allen Field, 1904

Outdoor basketball game on Allen Field, 1904

the students are playing outdoor basketball.  The tennis courts can be seen to the far right.  The photographer is looking towards Dryads Green and Paradise Road.  Today, that photographer might be standing in the courtyard of Martha Wilson House.  As the student population grew at Smith, and more students were engaged in intramural sport activities (between classes and houses).  There was a growing need for more space.

In 1921, the College purchased 10 acres of land along the Mill River to the edge of West Street, and planned to build the “New” Allen Field there.  The Field eventually was located alongside and behind Scott Gymnasium and Sage Hall, both completed in 1924.  The original Allen Field was maintained until construction of the Quadrangle houses was started in 1922 and began to encroach on its use.  The new Allen Field had 26 tennis courts, an archery range, a field hockey pitch, and a running track.

Site of 'new' Allen Field, 1921

Site of 'new' Allen Field, 1921

The College started to refer to this field as the Athletic Field.  In his Annual Report of 1930-1931, William A. Neilson reported that ‘after many years of intermittent negotiation the College has finally succeeded in purchasing from the Commonwealth additional land for athletic purposes.  Over 21 acres on the other side of Paradise Pond…have been acquired…Space with be provided there for four hockey fields, for a baseball field, a soccer field, a bridle path and for some minor sports.” [pps6-7, Annual Report of the President, 1930-1931].

In October of 1931, the Lamont Bridge which spanned the ‘new’ Allen Field and the new Athletic Field was dedicated.  The bridge was a gift to the College of Florence Corliss Lamont, Class of 1893.  Her daughter, Eleanor Lamont (Cunningham), Class of 1932 and William A. Neilson are shown at the ceremony:

Eleanor Lamont, Class of 1932 and William A. Neilson at Lamont Bridge Opening, 1931

Eleanor Lamont, Class of 1932 and president William A. Neilson at Lamont Bridge Opening, 1931

William A. Neilson chatting with students at Lamont Bridge dedication, 1931

William A. Neilson chatting with students at Lamont Bridge dedication, 1931

A field house was opened in 1939, with $5,000 in contributions initiated by the students–the remaining $10,000 was financed by the Board of Trustees.   Professional architect, and Smith faculty member Karl Putnam designed the Field House.  Its open house was well attended by students, alumnae, faculty and the local community. Over the years improvements to the fields were made, including an up-graded running track, a refurbished tennis complex, a croquet court, and now the addition of artificial turf.  Historically, the Allen Fields (all 3 sites) have been utilized to the maximum by Smith students and the local community.


Holiday Vesper Services at Smith

December 5, 2008

This weekend the College will hold its annual Christmas Vespers service in John M. Green Hall (Dec 7, 2008 4:00pm and 7:30pm). Did you know that the Vesper services were held from early in the College’s history?

An entry in the diary of Lydia Kendall, Class of 1895 for December 1892 describes then-president, L. Clark Seelye “His face fairly shown with the joy that he felt…He spoke to us very tenderly and very sweetly and left us with many lovely thoughts.” The musical portion of the service had a soloist, organ music, a violinist, and the choir.

Christmas Vesper Service 1892

Christmas Vesper Service 1892

Antiphonal singing between the choir and congregation began in the early 1900s. This program documents the songs and verse used in the 1906 service:

Christmas Vesper Service program 1906

Christmas Vesper Service program 1906

Once John M. Greene Hall was completed in 1909, the service was opened up to members of the Northampton and surrounding communities. If you attend this weekend’s services, you may see scenes similar to these from 1947:

Smith-Amherst Glee Club performance, 1947

Smith-Amherst Glee Club performance, 1947

Audience at Christmas Vespers in John M. Greene Hall, n.d.

Audience at Christmas Vespers in John M. Greene Hall, n.d.


Buildings at Smith College

June 13, 2007

This spring the Princeton Architectural Press rolled out, “Smith College: The Campus Guide”  as part of its on-going campus guide series.  Author Margaret Vickery spent a lot of time working in the College Archives collecting information and stories about the buildings that remain on campus, some that no longer exisit, and still others that never had the chance of making it from conceptual design to ‘real life.’  This guide is an important work for people interested in learning more about the surroundings of the place we live in and come to work in everyday. 

At the Archives Vickery worked with many collections and sources that document the growth of campus.  The following three collections were a wealth of information for her book, and you too can come and conduct research in them:

Smith College Buildings Files, A-Z: http://asteria.fivecolleges.edu/findaids/smitharchives/manosca104_main.html  Click on ‘view entire finding aid’ on the left-hand side bar for the complete listing. 

Smith College Grounds Collection, A-Z:  http://asteria.fivecolleges.edu/findaids/smitharchives/manosca137_main.html  ‘Grounds’ at Smith include landscape design documents, Botanical Garden records, as well as photographs for sections of campus.

Office of the President Records, 1872-present:  http://asteria.fivecolleges.edu/findaids/smitharchives/list  Every president dealt in some form or other with the expansion of campus, whether through acquisition of land, or purchase of pre-existing buildings.  For the tenure of most presidents, there are files specifically relating to the Buildings & Grounds department, that document these changes.  There may also be correspondence with donors, architects, constructions firms, as well as subject files for specific projects around campus.

These are but 3 of the collections that Vickery used in her research.  Biographical files, official publications, as well as photographic evidence all offer additional pieces to the story of Smith’s campus. 

If you are interested in learning more, please feel free to come to the Archives to review our sources, or contact us for more information.  Our website at www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/archives is a useful first step to learning about us.