In the early 1970s, as the college began to accept female students, there was a demand for more housing. Many felt that there needed to be a residence hall able to create a communal atmosphere as close as possible to the sort of environment that had been fostered by the fraternities. On September 19, 1968, The Springfield Republican declared that a new dorm was to be built at Williams, consisting of four residential houses “each having separate living, dining and recreational quarters.”
Mitchell-Giurgola Associates of Philadelphia was hired to design a building that would address not only the important need for communal housing, but also respond to the physical environment. Set below Lehman Hall and the freshman quadrangle, it would be placed against an incline, framed from behind by the 2000′ Dome Hill. The design was completed by early 1969 and was immediately awarded a Progressive Architecture design award, primarily for responding to the environment.
A local contractor, Petricca Construction Co. of Pittsfield, was granted the construction job at $5,400,000, or more than $17,000 per room. It was to be the college’s first poured concrete and electrically-heated building. At nearly 112,000 square feet, it would also be the largest on campus.
Though construction took longer than expected, students began to move in by the spring of 1971. The four houses of the Mission Park residential houses were named for four men who had close ties with Williams College: Samuel Chapman Armstrong, Tyler Dennett, James Bissett Pratt, and Samuel J. Mills. Dennett House was inhabited by former residents of Brooks House, who had opted to trade their building for the new Mission Park. The other three houses of Mission were inhabited mostly by women.
By David Noe (Williams Class of 2001)
‘New Dorm Planned at Williams,’ The Springfield Republican, 19 September 1968.