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.


Staff Appreciation

March 5, 2009

The infastructure of an academic residential community like Smith has a large number of people who don’t usually get to see themselves on the College website; quoted in College publications, or tapped for radio pieces on National Public Radio.  They do hold jobs of importance, however, in keeping the pursuits of the academy and campus running as smoothly as possible.  The Smith College Archives blog will periodically celebrate some of these individuals from the past.

Today we celebrate two men who held a dear place in the hearts of students because of their jobs:

John Quirk, 1883

John Quirk, 1883

John Quirk was the first mailman for the College, who also worked as a janitor and nightwatchman.  He served the College from 1878-1895.  On the back of this cabinet card photograph (above) the owner writes, “Mr. Quirk–‘A Man of Letters’  so called because he was our mailman and brought up in one bag to College Hall all the mail of the College.”   The mail was delivered to College Hall and then distributed at the ‘post office’ room near the circular stairs on the first floor, now part of the Student Financial Services Office.  A member of the Class of 1880 described him as “reliable as the College clock… He was a big man with reddish or sandy hair…a distinct Irish brogue, and a characteristic combination of dignity and good humor, and an object of general affection.  When you needed to know about anything, you could always ‘ask Mr. Quirk.'”

The man to replace Quirk also became a Smith institution.  John Doleman was first seen by President Seelye when he was part of the construction crew that built Lilly Hall, the College’s first science building.  He served the College for 30 years as the watchman and on his death in 1923, President William A. Neilson proclaimed, “…no single personality connected with the College has been known more widely than our faithful watchman.  He looked after our institution with skill and zeal.  He knew more people than anyone in the College.  He was known by more people.  Thousands of alumna count him among their real memories of the College.”

John Doleman, College Watchman, 1893-1923

John Doleman, College Watchman, 1893-1923

Rosamond Kimball, Class of 1909 recalled how John Doleman would come to the houses and tell ghost stories at Halloween.  He is also attributed with telling ghost stories in the tower of College Hall on nights with a full-moon.  His best claim to fame with the students, however, was his undercover work to nab a peeping tom on campus.  According to Kimball, John Doleman dressed up in a ruffled skirt and large hat, and walked the campus at night, hoping to lure the peeping tom out from his hiding place.  Apparently the trick worked as Doleman tackled the man and knocked him out cold!  He was so well loved, that there is a  plaque in his honor on the side of College Hall, (facing Pierce Hall) from his many student friends.

The images of both men appear in student photograph albums that are located in the College Archives, which attest to their popularity and integral part of student life.  Today, there are men and women like Quirk and Doleman who take pride in their association with Smith.  Many of these individuals have  spent years in this community.   Periodic blog entries will share their stories, as we know them.


Smith’s First President Helped End World War One!

November 25, 2008

Well, not exactly.

But President L. Clark Seelye’s voice may have inspired the United States diplomats who attended the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. Here’s the story…

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