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.


The Influenza Epidemic of 1918

January 18, 2008

While I was at home recuperating from an illness last week, my thoughts turned to how the College dealt with the influenze epidemic of 1918.   The influenza epidemic ascerted itself on Smith in 3 waves.  During the first wave of the crisis in October,  two students died from the pneumonia.  52 students left the College to convalesce at home.  Beds were filled completely at Sunnyside and in the Infirmary.  Because the Cooley-Dickinson Hospital was also filled to the maximum, another building at 57 Kensington Ave was opened to receive the ill.  Twenty-nine students volunteered to work as nurses aides at Cooley-Dickinson Hospital, as did a number of faculty members.  A quarantine of the remaining students took place.  Thanksgiving Recess was postponed.  During the 2nd wave of the epidemic, Baldwin House, 63 Belmont Ave, and 7 Paradise Road were used to house mild cases, and convalescing students.  Healthy students were sent to farms to work the fields in order to keep healthy.  The quarantine remained in effect until the end of January 1919.

 The College Archives has correspondence, photographs, and other materials created by undergraduate students as they endured the quarantine.  According to the Physician’s Annual Report and articles in the student newspaper, the Smith College Weekly the students made the Library their 2nd home. 

Can you image how this would take effect today?