The Original Gizmo

Alumni Hall Interior: The Hearth

As an alumna recalled on the recent Homecoming weekend tour through Alumni Hall, the original location of the Gizmo was on the lowest level of the building.

The Gizmo, however, wasn’t the original name for the student hangout, nor the original snack spot.

In 1938, three enterprising Knox students started a food stand called The Goal Post, nicknamed The Geep. It was located near Williston Hall. One of the students, Ed Waldmire, would later go on to invent the corn dog. Little did Waldmire know, his creation would someday be a staple of Flunk Day lunches.

The Geep became popular, and the College realized there was an untapped market for student snacking. The original Gizmo, first called The Hearth, opened in 1946 to “encourage students to stay on campus for food and fun,” as one article puts it.

The Hearth featured, as its name suggests, two large fireplaces in the basement of Alumni Hall. We have student Howard Watt to thank for the original name. He won $15 for suggesting The Hearth in a contest held to name the new snack bar. The fireplaces were the gift of 1894 alumna Janet Grieg Post, who is also the namesake of Post Hall.

In appearance, The Hearth was very modern for its time: pastel paints, indirect lighting, and upholstered booths. Some of these booths were claimed by Greek organizations and other groups as a designated hangout spot for their members.

The Hearth was the heart of campus. It is unclear when it adopted its new and current name, the Gizmo, but it found its new location in the early 1960s, when the current Gizmo was constructed and snack bar operations were moved out of Alumni Hall.

Do you have any memories of fond times shared with classmates in the original Gizmo?

The May 1946 issue of the Knox Alumnus features the brand new snack bar.

Seances and Spiritualism in Alumni Hall

Alumni Hall at dusk.

In a building as old and large and looming as Alumni Hall, ghost stories are bound to circulate. And, from what we know, spooky speculations have surrounded Alumni Hall since early in the building’s history. These ghostly rumors sparked certain student activities, like séances.

Spiritualism rose in popularity during the Civil War, and people’s interest in it continued until the late 1920s.

The giant theatre in the middle of the building, which at the time was being transitioned from the library to a performance theatre, had poor acoustics before a remodeling in the 1960s. The poor acoustics were what caused students to hear things, explains Lance Factor, George Appleton Lawrence Distinguished Service Professor of Philosophy and a campus expert on Alumni Hall as well as Old Main.

“If we were to spend some time sitting here in silence, we might share that experience. I don’t know what we’d hear,” Factor says, standing on the stage during a tour of the building this summer.

Factor shares the same view of Professor Raub, a professor of philosophy, physics and psychology from the early 20th century, who spoke out against the student séances. Their stance: There’s nothing there.

“[Professor Raub's] remark was, ‘Why don’t they ever tell us what life is like on the other side? They never report,’” Factor said.

Students keep searching. Factor reports he has received requests for ghost tours of Old Main and the Old Jail.

“They’ve heard there’s haunts or spirits or whatever,” Factor said. “but I think the séances were more of a social experiment. It was trendy.”

Still, there are those among us who do get a little spooked by the empty building glowing at night and wonder about the many spirits who have come and gone in the 122-year history of Alumni Hall. To those folks, Happy Halloween!

Gnothautii Cornerstone

Gnothautii cornerstone

The third and final cornerstone-laying was for the Gnothautii cornerstone. Check out the first and second ones. Sounds like it wasn’t quite as cool as the Adelphi ceremony.

Members and friends of Gnothautii got together on a Wednesday morning to lay the mottled red granite stone, which bears a simple inscription: “Gnothautii. Founded 1848.” They filled an empty space within the stone — what we’d now call a time capsule — with several items. Among them: an account of Gnothautii’s founding, its constitution and by-laws, a list of members from the founding, a list of present officers, and newspapers.

The cornerstone was laid by Knox Professor Milton Comstock, an 1851 Knox grad and one of Gnothautii’s original founders. He taught mathematics, philosophy, and astronomy, and he also was a noted horticulturalist. Comstock was part of “The Great Triumvirate,” a name given to three distinguished scholars (Comstock, Albert Hurd, and George Churchill) who formed the core of the Knox faculty in the second half of the 19th century.

Comstock delivered remarks, and he was followed by J. A. McKenzie, a Gnothautii and a lawyer in Knox County. McKenzie made his speech without using notes.

Here’s a photo of “The Great Triumvirate.”

The Great Triumvirate of Knox College in the late 1800s.

Milton Comstock, left, Albert Hurd, right, and George Churchill were The Great Triumvirate of Knox College in the late 1800s.

Adelphi Cornerstone

Adelphi CornerstoneFirst, a quick reminder that Alumni Hall originally was built as three structures: Gnothautii in the east wing, Alumni Hall in the middle, and Adelphi in the west wing. Three cornerstones were laid in separate ceremonies. We’ve already mentioned one of these, when President Benjamin Harrison came to Knox for the Alumni Hall cornerstone ceremony.

Today, we look back at the laying of the Adelphi stone. There was no U.S. president at this ceremony, but still, it wasn’t exactly low-key. There was a large procession of people that included Knox President Newton Bateman and other dignitaries riding in a four-wheeled carriage, soldiers from Battery D, the Marine Band, and men from the Adelphi literary society. The newspaper Coup d’Etat described the scene this way: “The procession moved around the Courthouse Square and on reaching the Seminary [modern-day Whiting Hall], the boys fell back to give the place to the L.M.I. girls who, having been previously invited, attended in full. There were sixty of them.” L.M.I. — Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Society — was a women’s literary society on campus.

Once the procession reached the Knox campus, buglers played, a prayer was recited, and an Adelphi quartet crooned a welcome song. The Adelphi president introduced George Appleton Lawrence, an 1875 Knox grad who became a respected lawyer, financier, and Knox trustee for more than 40 years. “An auspicious day has dawned for the old Adelphi,” he said. Then he grabbed a trowel, placed it in the mortar, and adjusted a tin box with various mementos, including the Adelphi Constitution, a list of members’ names, and the Adelphi bell.

Other highlights of the ceremony included a 10-round cannon salute, remarks from 1885 Knox graduate H. Mark Gilbert, a performance of the Adelphi song, and, finally, a whole lot of cheering. There were three cheers for Knox, three for the L.M.I., three for Gnothautii, and three for Adelphi.