Cruising by the South Side

South View of Alumni Hall

This is a shot of the south side of Alumni Hall some time after 1960. The back side of Alumni Hall has a lot of green leafy landscaping, too, which is different from other shots of the building we’ve seen. Car buffs get bonus points and bragging rights if they can identify the make and model of the car in the foreground!

Alumni Hall Postcard

Alumni Hall 1893

If you were writing to friends back in 1893, you could’ve done so on the back of this postcard featuring a picture of Alumni Hall. How often do academic buildings get their own postcards today? This helps us understand just how interesting and exciting the Alumni Hall building was back when it was first constructed.

Crumbling Classroom

Alumni Hall Classroom

Pictured is a large classroom on the top floor of one of the wings of Alumni Hall, some time after 1960. Notice the crumbling wall on the right. The upkeep and renovations required to keep Alumni Hall going have been an ongoing issue since the first renovations in the 1930s. As early as 1929, students were noticing how old Alumni Hall was, as an editorial in The Knox Student said “As we look at Alumni Hall today, and wonder when we’ll be getting new buildings, perhaps we do not realize the true significance of the old red landmark.” A 1949 memo to Trustees stated that “[$16,615.34] is obviously a considerable amount to spend on a building as old as Alumni Hall.” These issues only worsened as time went on and costs were climbing, which probably explains the bit of broken wall in the classroom. These issues, as well as expanded classroom space in other buildings on campus, eventually led to the decision to “mothball” Alumni Hall.

Alumni Hall’s Basement

Indoor Track in Basement of Alumni Hall

It might surprise some people to learn that the most versatile and widely used part of Alumni Hall was not the classrooms or the theatre, but the basement.

An April 1890 issue of the Coup d’Etat, a student newspaper, described the basement as intended to be used as an armory and a space for cadets for “company evolutions in winter and inclement weather.” The room also housed bathrooms and lockers, as well as a chemical laboratory.

Although it appears its use was multipurpose from the beginning, the builders likely didn’t expect the many transformations the basement would see in future years. The lowest level of Alumni Hall has served as an indoor track, the Gizmo, a computer center, the mailroom, the gymnasium, the bookstore, a shooting range, and home to a few administrative offices. The basement was also the last part of the building to remain open and in use before all of Alumni Hall closed.

The photo above is from the basement’s tenure as the school’s indoor track, taken in 1923. This track was state-of-the-art when it was constructed in the 1920s, as no other school in the area had one like it. The 1927 Knox Alumnus described how the construction of the track, conducted by students and led by the track coach, “required the removal of several supporting posts in the basement.” The pits required for field sports like pole vaulting, shot put, and high jump were dug into the floor of the basement due to the low ceilings.

The track stayed open until around 1940, and by 1946, the Hearth was opened in the east wing of the basement and the bookstore next to it followed a few years later.

1891 Fundraising

1891 Check to the Alumni Hall Fund

Anyone who has ever raised funds knows that every little bit helps. Documents like these that trace the process of fundraising for the original construction of Alumni Hall take that idea to a new level, with little pledges here and there, like this $5 one. We hope Lizzie Freer paid on time! Otherwise, her pledge is 121 years overdue.