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May 3, 2018
>>The original Brockport Collegiate Institute (as seen in this illustration from the 1842 College catalog) was built in 1835. Built out of local Medina sandstone, it stood approximately where Hartwell Hall is today. With the addition of a couple wings in the 1860s, when Brockport became a State Normal School, it served as the main campus building up into the 1930s. In the 19th century, there were rooms in the building for students to board in, and the principal and some faculty roomed in the building as well. In the late 1930s, it was torn down and replaced by what later became known as Hartwell.
>>As the graduation of the Class of 2018 nears, College Archivist Charlie Cowling felt compelled to examine what life was like at Brockport a century ago, for the Class of 1918. Brockport was then one of several New York State Normal Schools, focused on teacher training. After completing the two-year course of study, a graduate was given a license to teach in the state schools. The Class of 1918 was far smaller than modern classes; there were 63 students in the main class and nine in the special, shorter “rural school” course. Most were women. That being the year the US entered WWI, student activities included starting a Red Cross chapter and forming a cadet corps. Several of today’s campus buildings are named after figures from that era: Alfred Thompson, head of the school, who lived in what is today the Alumni House; Aletta Edwards, an English instructor; and Charles Cooper, head of the campus school, where Normal School students trained as teachers with area children as their pupils.
>>Greg Van Dussen ’69 recently shared with the Rose Archives a copy of an alternate Alma Mater from his time as a student here. The words to the original Alma Mater were written in 1915 by Marie Weldon ’16, and the music is Gotteschalk’s “Last Hope.” Thanks to Van Dussen, we now know that two professors collaborated on a new Alma Mater in the mid-1960s: music professor William Pottebaum composed the score, and mathematics professor George Painter wrote the lyrics. This version is the one familiar to students of Van Dussen’s era. When and why this new version was let go in favor of restoring the former is a mystery. Anyone knowing anything about this is encouraged to contact Charlie Cowling.
April 5, 2018
>>The years after World War II were a time of tremendous growth for higher education, as thousands of veterans went to college on the GI Bill. Brockport began a period of expansion in that time that was unprecedented in the school’s history. During this rapid expansion, a handy expedient in terms of housing was to haul in army surplus buildings and park them on the south side of Hartwell Hall, where the parking lots and lawn are now. One set of buildings was from what is now Hamlin Beach State Park. The buildings had been used by Civilian Conservation Corps boys in the late 1930s, then by German POWs in WWII, and next for married veterans at Brockport State. While formally known as Married Veterans Student Housing, a common nickname for the site was “Diaper Alley.”
>>The recent spike in influenza cases prompted a look back at the epidemic of 1918, which hit Brockport and the surrounding areas hard. A search through Brockport Republic issues archived by NYS Historic Newspapers revealed hundreds of uses of the term “influenza” that year. The findings included many entries in the “Brevities” section, a common practice of the time which detailed tidbits like estate purchases, items lost, who was visiting with whom, and — quite frequently, in this case — who was ill and confined to their homes. A December 12, 1918, entry in the “Vicinity Happenings” section for Hamlin states, “The influenza quarantine was lifted Friday. The churches reopened Sunday and the schools commenced their sessions Monday.” The outbreak persisted into the new year, however; for instance, the January 9, 1919, issue states that “Miss Alice Yale of the Normal faculty has the influenza.”
>>Brockport Normal School had a large collection of lantern slides, 4” x 3.25” glass slides that were projected through “magic lantern” projectors. Long after their active use ended in the 1950s when 35mm slides took over, the lantern slides were still here. Rich Hart, now retired, was an AV tech who rescued these slides and equipment from being discarded, and they eventually came to the Rose Archives. College Archivist Charlie Cowling has been scanning some stunning bird images from these slides — images taken c1910–1920 by prominent NY birders and ornithologists like Arthur Allen of Cornell and Guy Bailey of Geneseo Normal — and uploading them to Digital Commons and to Flickr.
March 1, 2018
>>The original student union building was actually Lathrop Hall, built in 1951. (See our December notes, below.) As the college enrollment grew in the 1950s and '60s, more space was badly needed, and a new student union was constructed and opened in 1969, and Lathrop was converted to other uses. Seymour is named for William Seymour, a fascinating local man who was an inventor and partner in Seymour & Morgan, a major agricultural machinery company in Brockport. Their factory site was where "Harvester Park" is, along the canal. His home is where the Village museum is located today, on State Street. Seymour was a staunch supporter of the school during the crisis of the 1860s when it nearly closed.
>>Junior Rani Gill, interning in the Rose Archives, has been hard at work this semester documenting the history of the Brockport Arts Festival. She is searching through files from The Stylus, Alumni News, and the Democrat & Chronicle, as well as photos in the Archives’ collections. The festival started in 1960 and was held on campus the first few years. Several noteworthy names of the day took part, such as playwright and actor Marc Connolly in Our Town in 1960, "Topper" star Leo Carroll in On Borrowed Time in 1961, and actress Peggy Wood in Finders in the Dark and I Remember Mama in 1963. Then a theatre in the round was built at the newly established Fancher Campus in the mid-’60s. The festival ran up into the 1990s, but the ’60s were its heyday. In 1965, for instance, the program included the Hochstein Music School, the Syracuse Repertory Theatre, the Clothesline Art Exhibit, performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Miracle Worker, and more. That also was the year there was a fire at the Fancher Campus!
February 1, 2018
>>Brockway Dining Hall was built in 1966 and was named after Hiel Brockway, a Connecticut native who came to the Village of Clarkson after the War of 1812. This was before the canal came through in the 1820s, when Ridge Road was the primary traffic route through western New York. When the Erie Canal came through, Brockway helped develop the Village of Brockport with his business partner James Seymour. He was not only a real estate magnate but a canal tycoon, with his profitable “Red Bird” packet line. A very civic-minded man, he donated the original tract of six acres for the College, the property that Hartwell Hall stands on today. A number of his 13 children attended that early edition of our school, the Brockport Collegiate Institute.
>>An update on a project first shared here in October: senior Lyndsey Richards, who interned in the Rose Archives under Charlie Cowling in the fall, has completed a presentation on the early history of gay rights at the College, including the Gay Freedom League, the first LGBTQ club on campus, founded in 1972. Much of Richards’s research came from combing through archived editions of The Stylus online. If anyone has additional information or memorabilia to share, please email Lyndsey or Charlie.
December 7, 2017
>>Rehabbed in recent years as the home of our nursing department, Lathrop Hall has a long history. Up through the 1940s, Brockport was a one-building school, but with the post-WWII boom in higher education, more space was called for. While some temporary structures were set up, e.g. the “Quonset Huts” along the railroad tracks, the first permanent buildings outside Hartwell Hall were built on Kenyon Street. Lathrop Hall was opened in 1951 as the Student Union, and served as such for a number of years until Seymour was completed in 1969.
Having a separate building for a student union and for use in special events was a
huge step forward for Brockport. Prior to that, there had only been a couple of small
lounges in Hartwell Hall, one being the
“Green Lounge.” With the new building, much more ambitious programming could take place, such as conferences and balls. There was a cafeteria, too, and lounges for reading and socializing. New technologies came in as well; in the fall of 1951, Brockport students saw the World Series on TV in a campus lounge for the first time. (The NY Giants vs. the NY Yankees, the last of the famous “Subway Series.”)
Frank Clifford was the director of the new facility and lived in an apartment in the building. He was responsible for not only the Union itself, but the then-new dormitories attached to it. Lathrop is named after Henry Lathrop, a popular mathematics professor who had died in 1935.
>>The Rose Archives recently came into possession of a rare artifact, a heavy, cast iron stamp, 4.5 inches high, the imprint of which references P.J. Williams, who was head of the school from 1861–63. This was in the last years of Brockport’s time as a private Collegiate Institute, before transitioning to a State Normal School. The stamp was part of the estate of Wayne Dedman, emeritus professor of history and author of Cherishing This Heritage, a comprehensive study of the College. It was donated to the Archives by John Kohena ’80, who handled the Dedmans’ estate.
November 2, 2017
>>Student interns in the Rose Archives are exploring a variety of integral pieces of the College’s history.
- Senior history major Tyler Beyea has been scanning and editing a manuscript of reminiscences of life in Brockport before the Civil War by James Cornes, a Brockport native, graduate of the Brockport Collegiate Institute, and Civil War veteran. It is now available online in Digital Commons.
- Junior English major Brittany Tewari has been researching the papers and diary of Doris Bird ’39 and writing a work of fiction grounded in the Normal School of Doris’s era.
- Senior history major Samantha Bradley has been researching the life of Mary Mortimer, for whom Mortimer Hall is named, a pioneer in higher education for women in the 19th century.
- Senior history major Lyndsey Richards is compiling a history of gay liberation at Brockport, with a focus on the Gay Freedom League of the 1970s. In a previous internship, she digitized a 1940s scrapbook of Betty Evershed ’46, which is now online in Digital Commons.
>>Many have wondered why Cooper Hall has some elements typical of a middle or elementary school building, such as the rows of lockers along the hallways. When Cooper was originally built in 1965, Brockport was a teacher training institution, and Cooper was designed to house the “campus school.” Children from the Village attended and were taught by “teacher critics” who both taught the children and supervised the college students as they rotated through for their student teaching experience.
The building’s namesake, Charles Cooper, was head of the campus school and student teaching experience from 1911 to 1936. He was an effective educator and administrator who worked hard to see students from Brockport succeed. He was also a keen supporter of athletics who oversaw much of our athletic programs, and he had been quite an athlete himself in his day.
Cooper Hall was the home of our campus school until that closed in 1980. Since then, the building has housed various academic units and departments, offered a venue for events in the New York Room, and so forth.
October 5, 2017
>>Senior Lyndsey Richards, an intern in the Rose Archives under Charlie Cowling, is seeking any information on the history of the Gay Freedom League at Brockport. It was the first-ever LGBTQ club on campus and was started by someone by the name of C.W. Davis in 1972. Any sort of information about the history of this club or its members would be greatly appreciated. Please email Lyndsey or Charlie.
>>Rose Strasser, namesake of the performance studio in Hartwell Hall, came to Brockport in 1946, just after World War II, when Brockport was a small teachers college. A member of the physical education staff, her passion and focus was on dance. At that time, however, there was no separate dance department. Over the years, Strasser promoted dance at Brockport, leading to the establishment of the Department of Dance in 1967. Her story illustrates the dramatic shifts higher education experienced in the post-WWII era. A paper by Earl Yarington ’00 available in Digital Commons details her story and includes extensive quotes from Strasser herself.
September 7, 2017
>>Richard “Bud” Meade was in Human Resources at The College at Brockport from 1968 to 2000. During his time at the College, he came to know many of our faculty and staff. In his retirement, he began to circulate an email newsletter which passed on stories and news about various College retirees. This remarkable, ongoing project has captured a tremendous amount of information about the folks who built the College up from a still relatively small teachers college into the comprehensive liberal arts college of the present day. The collection is now digitized online and will continue to grow.
>>Lennon Hall was named in the 1960s for William Lennon, a science teacher here from 1869 to 1911. He was well respected in the College and local community and remembered fondly by many students. In addition to his teaching role, he maintained a weather station on campus, and he took an active part in the alumni affairs of the day, not only locally, but traveling to those of the “Brockporters Association” in New York City. In 1908, he wrote a short but charming and informative history of the school, now available to read online.
>>This past June, the son of Doris Bird (Eldredge) ’39 gave the Rose Archives a collection of papers and other materials that had belonged her, a nice capture of her time here in school papers, assignments, notebooks, and the most consistently kept, extensive diary of any Normal School–era student we have. Doris was active in the “W.A.A.,” the women’s athletic association; served on the Saga staff; and took part in the annual Color Day, a major spring event every year then. This was the tail end of the Normal School era, which had started in 1867, before which Brockport had been a private academy. The Normal School’s sole focus was teacher training. Doris attended the school in the last few years of the old building’s existence; in 1938-39 that stone complex was torn down and the building we call Hartwell Hall was erected in its place. After Brockport, Doris taught for over 40 years in schools in Phelps, NY. She married, raised a family, and lived a busy life — yet obviously her time at Brockport was important to her, as the saving of all these materials testifies!
>>The Friends of Drake Library are working to digitize and reprint The Diary of the Sidewalk Superintendents Club, a book of notes and illustrations by fourth-graders in the Campus School (the school within the Normal School) in 1939, as they observed the construction of the new Brockport State Teachers College. As teacher Ora Van Slyke’s introduction states, “This collection of snapshots, original drawings and stories records chronologically not only the history of the building of the school but also the growth of the members in observation and in technical knowledge.”
May 4, 2017
>>Mortimer Hall, built in 1970, is named for Mary Mortimer, who was here at Brockport long before, in the 1840s, when it was the private Collegiate Institute. She was a teacher and head of the “female” department of the school. She came here at age 21 from Geneva, NY, where she had attended the Geneva Female Seminary. Those who knew her described her as intelligent and persistent. One friend wrote of Mortimer that “…difficulties only seemed to arouse her untiring energies.”
In winter 1844, Mortimer organized a special program for a group of women students. One later recalled, “This ‘band of sisters’ was domiciled for the winter in a quiet farm house… There, shut in by the wintery snows, they devoted themselves to study, with all the ardor of their own youthful minds, inspired to extraordinary effort by the enthusiasm of their teacher… The hours of severer study in Metaphysics and Mathematics were pleasantly relieved by a course in Modern History, and, at stated times, lessons in Music, French and Drawing…
“When the hours of study for the day were ended, exercise and play were the order… When the weather did not admit of a walk, the old porch furnished outdoor promenade, and the chance passer-by must sometimes have been startled with the ring of merry voices and the tramp of many feet under the shelter of the piazza.”
After Brockport, Mortimer taught at Leroy Female Seminary and then became associated with Catherine Beecher, of the nationally known family, and they established a college for women in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
April 6, 2017
College Archivist Charlie Cowling provides a glimpse at the types of inquiries and projects he has encountered over the past month:
>>Distinguished Professor of Mathematics Sanford Miller contacted the Archives looking for photos and other materials to use in a joint celebration of the 50th anniversaries of the Departments of Mathematics and Physics. (Before that, Brockport was a Teachers College, and there was one big “Sciences” department.)
>>Mary Heddon (Brown) ’45 emailed the Archives, asking about issues of The Stylus, as she had been editor her senior year. Connected her with the online Stylus archives.
>>Original 16mm film of a documentary by Professor Emeritus Jean Bobear of the Bergen Swamp in 1969-70 has been discovered and is going be digitized. All we had previously were rather mediocre VHS copy tapes.
>>Professor Emeritus Emory Morris (Chemistry), with Archives assistance, is putting together a list of departmental scholars from over the years. If you were one, stay tuned — he may be in touch!
>>In helping with the 20th anniversary celebration of the Women’s Center, it was discovered that there was an earlier Women’s Center, in the early 1980s, that grew out of a “Women’s Coalition” then on campus. Anyone with any knowledge of this coalition and its activities, please contact the archivist.
Cowling keeps a record of many such projects on his blog.
March 2, 2017
>>The “little free library” has arrived! As first reported in November, Gordon Fox ’66 has been working with the Friends of Drake Library in crafting this mini library (a popular trend through which people are encouraged to take a book or leave a book), which is an authentic, detailed model of the old Normal School building — which once stood where Hartwell Hall is today — as it would have looked c1870. The Little Library is currently on display on the circulation desk in Drake Memorial Library, near Aerie Café. Along with a granite bench donated by Cherise Oakley ’14, secretary in the Department of English, it will be placed on the lawn of Hartwell sometime in the spring.
>>Several internships are underway in the College Archives this semester. Emily Maxwell ’18 and Caitlin Tavernia ’19 are working together on an inventory and on updating the general finding aid to the Archives. Adam Finkelstein ’17 is researching the Student Faculty Association, predecessor to today’s College Senate. Contessa Blosenhauer ’17 is researching the physical expansion of the campus and the names of the buildings. (See more on this project here.) Lyndsey Richards ’18 is researching biographies of the people behind the several hundred named scholarships the College offers. And Jake Dion ’18 is researching student tastes in popular music over the years.
February 2, 2017
>>The early history of the College is a fascinating one, and one that is intimately linked with the people of the village. Although a regional Baptist convention planned a school here, erecting a building in 1835, the school never really got off the ground, due to financial crises. In 1841, concerned village residents took the initiative to band together, pledge money, and start a new school in the building, called the Brockport Collegiate Institute. Without their commitment and generosity, we would not be here today! See the minutes from that pivotal 1841 meeting.
>>Dorm life: it is such a staple of college life, and yet so few know anything about its history. Brockport’s story is a typical one. In the early days, c1841-1900, Brockport was a one-building school, and that building included rooms for students, and faculty and the principal as well. However, after a tragic fire at Fredonia Normal, the state insisted that all residential housing in state schools cease. Thus from c1900 to the late 1940s, students either commuted, or lived in College-approved boarding houses in the village. With the tremendous expansion of colleges after WWII, that system simply was overwhelmed, and several temporary dorms were constructed on campus starting in the late 1940s. The first permanent dormitory was Morgan Hall, completed in 1951.
December 1, 2016
>>For many years, two popular traditions at Brockport were the annual winter events of Christmas Vespers and the Winter Carnival. The Vespers program ran approximately 1940–1962, and the Winter Carnival was held regularly from about 1940 as well up through 1967. Both of these events were quite popular with not only the College community, but the surrounding community as well. A Stylus article from December 1, 1961, reports on the plans for the two activities. The “Chateau de Noel” was the theme of the Winter Carnival that year — with tickets for a couple at $2.50! In addition to the Stylus articles, the Rose Archives has a number of photographs of the two events. If anyone has memories to share or snapshots to donate, please email Charlie Cowling, the college archivist.
November 3, 2016
>>Gordon Fox ’66 is a retired teacher and quite the woodworker. The Friends of Drake Library are excited to be working with Gordon, who is building a “little free library” to be placed on campus. These small-scale “libraries” have become quite popular in recent years, fostering reading and community by encouraging visitors to take and/or leave a book. The one Gordon is building will be a scale model of the old Normal School building, which was torn down in 1938 when Hartwell Hall was erected. Another member of the Friends, Cherise Oakley ’14, secretary in the Department of English, and her husband David are donating a granite bench to be placed with the library.
>>The Friends of Drake Library have done much since their start in 2014 to enhance and expand the library experience for our community. They have held successful fundraising events, such as the very popular antiques roadshow in 2015. These funds support activities like buying snacks for students coming in for “Long Night at Drake” events (late-night library hours leading into final exams), supplies for the 3D printer space, an upcoming writing contest, and more. To take part or learn more, visit http://library.brockport.edu/friends.
>>History major Lyndsey Richards ’18 is interning in the Rose Archives this semester, researching the life of students at the College during WWII. The foundation of her study is a scrapbook made by Betty Evershed ’46, who was president of her class and highly active in campus life. The book includes Evershed’s acceptance letter to the College; class photos; snapshots of Evershed and her friends at Wallace Estates, the house where they lived in the village; dance cards; articles she wrote for The Stylus; news items about war effort work; and much more. Richards plans to present her research at Scholars Day this spring. She and College Archivist Charlie Cowling hope to get the scrapbook digitized soon through Digital Commons.
October 6, 2016
>>The College’s former series of yearbooks, the Saga, is archived online through Digital Commons. The collection contains yearbooks from 1929 through 1996, when publication ended, as well as some earlier iterations.
>>Old issues of The Stylus, from 1928 through 2014, are available online through the NYS Historic Newspapers Project, an extensive and easily searchable database.
>>Contact Charlie Cowling, College archivist, at email@example.com or (585) 395-5667 with any questions regarding the history of the College, or if you have materials to donate to the archives.