Each Ancient Classic Hall
by Christopher Daubert and Thomas Hunt

 Photograph courtesy of Dickinson College archives

On November 4, 1950, ground was broken for the first women's residence hall1 to be built on the Dickinson College campus.  The groundbreaking ceremonies for the new structure, Drayer Hall, were held on Homecoming Day.  The board of trustees and the College felt it necessary for this hall to be built because the female population at the College was increasing rapidly.  Additionally, they felt felt that if a new dormitory was built, it would be a new and better attraction for women to attend Dickinson.  Before this, women lived at Metzger College, some distance from the main campus and not an ideal situation for a modern liberal arts campus. (See below)

The building, which was dedicated to the College on May 1, 1952, was the first major building on the Benjamin Rush campus.  To mark the event, a special ceremony took place, and was called at the time "Women's Day."2  Proceedings on this first such day for the College included  a special speaker named Edith Ford, who was a British diplomat at the time.  During the ceremonies numerous other women received various awards for their services to the College and the community. (Click here for the women so honored.)

Groundbreaking 1950    Women's Day 1952

The original plan was that the hall would house 130 females, contain lounge rooms, recreation rooms, and a dining room which could seat up to 200 people.  With the completion of this building, as noted, women students would for the first time actually be living on the main campus of the College.

Funding for the building was quite complex.  The three and a half story building that was projected to cost $575,000 dollars ended up costing in reality $750,000 dollars.  The College was able to receive donations from trust companies, development funds, and general funds that were raised over three years.  The dormitory was expected to be finished by September, 1951 but because of the war in Korea3, supplies were scarce, costs went up, and construction took much longer than expected.   Meanwhile, the trustees pondered over how to name their new building.  They considered many names and came up with quite an impressive list of accomplished persons4.  In the end, though, they came to the conclusion that it should be named in the honor of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel M. Drayer.

The resulting building was something of a luxury to the women that resided there, especially those who had previously inhabited the old Metzger College building.  Under the direction of architect Sydney E. Martin, a rather impressive structure had been built for them.  The new residence hall had 65 modern double and single rooms.  On each floor there was a laundry and pressing room.  There was a "pajama room" or lounge on each floor as well.  Drayer Hall also featured a recreational room on the ground floor, four sun decks, a spacious main lounge, a dining room that could seat 250 people, its own infirmary, and apartments for two house directors and a dietitian.  The first floor of Drayer was painted marigold yellow.  The second floor was painted maple leaf green, the third floor carnation pink.  The main lounge was painted blue.  Room preference was to be given to upper class women, with good academic standing being the other determining factor.5  The general attitude of the women that were to reside in Drayer must have been both of excitement and relief.  No longer would they have to walk blocks to class.  Above all, this seemed to signal full membership, at last, in the College community.

    On June 3, 1954 Drayer Hall experienced a small fire.  A cook had forgotten to turn off a soup kettle in the kitchen.  As a result, in the early morning hours, 125 students were forced to evacuate in their nightgowns.  The fire caused minor damage:  a wall near the stove and the stove were damaged.  George Shuman, the superintendent of grounds, estimated the damage at around fifty dollars.  The residents considered themselves very lucky, because it could have been a lot worse.  Eleven years after the fire, with the opening of the Holland Union Building and the determination to centralize student services, the recreation area, dining room, and kitchen space were converted into more dorm rooms and the College Health Center.9

    Today, in 1999, Drayer is the home for 180 freshmen, both male and female.

Picture courtesy of Dickinson College archives
  Drayer in 1998

Metzger College was the original residence of the first women that studied at Dickinson.  The land was donated by George Metzger, class of 1798.  He also gave $25,000 to build a brick Victorian "Institute" which opened its doors in 1881.  Originally, Metzger, on North Hanover Street in Carlisle, admitted girls whose ages ranged from kindergarten to college.  The first principal was Miss Harriet, Robert M. Henderson was the first president. Gender duties were shared in the style of the time, the board of trustees were made up of men, while the faculty were made up of women.  By 1913, the Dickinson College had taken over the building as strictly a College dormitory.  When Drayer was built, Metzger housed only freshmen women.  By 1963, Metzger was sold and demolished.  A "Hardies" fast food restaurant occupies the site today.

 Old East was another place where students once lived at Dickinson College.  Old East, which was constructed on 1835 and renovated twice once in 1882 and another 1922, was used not only as a dormitory but also as a classroom building and was the home of the president.  The president lived in Old East from 1836-1890.  Old East was also a hospital during the Civil War, treating both Northern and Southern soldiers in the days surrounding the pivotal battle at nearby Gettysburg6.  When Old East needed to be renovated, the board of trustees were able to raise money from the Education Boards of Baltimore and Philadelphia.  Another $17,500 were raised in pledges and loans.  Significantly, women students never lived in this building.

The future inhabitants of Drayer Hall also came from the Gibbs House which was located at 231 North Hanover Street, right across the street from Metzger College.  The Gibbs House was the former home and carriage house of John Hays and belonged to Anna A. Hays and Ellinor Blaine Hays.  The two women sold the house to the College on October 26, 1939, for $15,000.  The house was then remodeled into a dormitory.  The College decided that it would equip each female student residing there with a desk, bed, dresser, and two chairs.  This would cost the college between $75 and $100 per person, twice as much as anticipated.7    It had an Adequacy Rating as fair, mostly because of its five blocksdistance from campus.  On October 5, 1964, the College sold the residence to Roy and William Hoffman.  The Hoffman's had owned a funeral home at 219 North Hanover Street, and they decided to relocate their business to the former dormitory, paying  $36,500 for the property. 8  It now serves as a funeral home.

For more pictures of both Old East and Drayer Hall click here

        1.  Dickinson College Archives Trustee minutes from 1949-52
        2. Dickinson College Archive Drayer Drop File
        3. Dickinson College Archives Trustee Minutes from 1949-52
        4. Dickinson College Archive Trustee Minutes from 1943-48
        5. The Evening News.  Margaretta Wilson.  Harrisburg, PA.  April 18, 1952
        6. Dickinson College Archives Old East Drop File
        7. Dickinson College Archives Gibbs House Drop File
        8. Dickinson College Archives Gibbs House Drop File
        9. The Evening Sentinel.  Carlisle, PA.  June 3, 1954

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