Hopkins Hall, 1890-


After the death of Mark Hopkins on 17 June, funds are solicited for “the erection and maintenance of a building upon the College Grounds to be known as the Mark Hopkins Memorial, to be used for lectures, recitations, and for executive and such other purposes as may be approved by the trustees.”  Frederick Ferris Thompson (Williams Class of 1856) pledges $25,000 if $50,000 is raised.  Four hundred twenty-four pledges, totaling $89,577.75, are made.    (Report on the Mark Hopkins Memorial Committee)


The grounds are graded and sown in May, and the building dedicated on 1 July.  In a speech by Hiram Grant Person (Williams Class of 1891), the building is described as fittingly bespeaking “the nature of the life it would perpetuate. Simple, modest, yet firm in foundation and superstructure: not pretentious yet symmetrical, and beautifully finished.  Plain, massive and certain to have an ever-widening influence for good.”


The stone around the entrances is finally carved.  It “would have been done sooner but for the inability to procure the proper workmen.” A “beautiful bronze inscription plate” is dedicated in Hopkins.  (Williams Weekly, 14 May 1891, 19 November 1891)


The Gulielmensian prints a picture of each class sitting on the steps to Hopkins Hall, a tradition that would continue until 1917. (1897, 1918 Gulielmensian)


The first and fourth floors, “owing to the cramped facilities of the Faculty room and the various offices on the first floor of Hopkins Hall,” are renovated.  The renovation includes wiring the building for electricity and rearranging rooms, adding the mathematical library to the Treasurer’s office, making the faculty room into the Dean’s office, and turning the Registrar’s office into “a file and typewriting room”. The top floor is divided into three classrooms and a new mathematical library.  With the advent of electrical lighting, students no longer need to bring their own lanterns to navigate the dangerous steps.  (Williams Record, 13 May 1909.  Williams Weekly, 23 September 1909, 5 November 1891)


When the ‘Monastery’ was moved to make way for Chapin Hall and campus planning began to be an issue, the placement of Hopkins was questioned, but quickly dismissed: “the rumors of the translation of the rockribbed battlements of Hopkins Hall to a less conspicuous locality have been only quieted by the later rumor that it would cost a small fortune to move them there”. (Williams Alumni Review, July 1910)


Renovations to Hopkins Hall, including improvements to the heating and electrical systems, new paint, and a fire escape, are made.  (Williams Record, 25 May 1955, 24 September 1955)


The Deans, Registrar, and Student Aid are moved to the second floor so that the entire north side of the first floor is clear for the use of the Admissions office.  (Williams Alumni Review, February 1963)


At four in the morning on 5 April, the Afro-American student association, seeing no other way to make its demands heard for an Afro-American Studies program, an Afro-American cultural center, and “at a minimum, twenty-five Afro-American students” in each freshman class, occupies Hopkins Hall.  Faculty call off classes Monday and Tuesday to allow for discussion, and many students stand in the rain outside Hopkins Hall on April 6th to show their solidarity.  The occupation ends at one in the morning on 8 April, when the administration and the Afro-American Society come to an understanding on the majority of the demands.  (Williams Record, 9 April 1969. Williams Alumni Review Spring 1969)


A major renovation begins. (Williams Record, 15 Sept. 1987


Hopkins reopens after another renovation, which entirely guts the interior of the building, equipping the classrooms with motion-sensing lights and “high-tech chairs”.  Because the $9.3 million renovation comes at the same time as a nine percent tuition hike, people think it was too ostentatious, while others feel that “a building of historical significance had been destroyed without so much as a shred of regret”. The new building gains the nickname ‘Hopkins Mall’ from the “lights, mirrors, and general Trumpian garishness that Art History professors have called ‘adequate’ in their kinder and gentler moments”. After this, the Record prints a picture of the new Baxter cold cereal dispensers “for all of you who thought that Hopkins Hall was the most significant advancement in the history of Williams College”.  (Williams Record, 4 June 1989, 1989 GulielmensianWilliams Record, 19 September 1989)