Annabella Beachner reporter
For 100 years, Frances Willard Hall has stood at 204 E. Lindburg Street but has served a great variety of purposes throughout its’ history. On April 17., the residents and personnel of Willard Hall hosted a 100th birthday celebration to reminisce Willard’s history and appreciate that the building still stands so many years later.
The celebration, hosted by the Resident Assistants of Willard Hall, included snacks and birthday cake for residents to enjoy. Decorations, banners, and balloons hung on the walls of the lobby and hallways. Attendees could listen to music, play a game of pool, learn trivia and facts about Willard Hall as well as enjoy a piece of Birthday cake. Board games and festivities also continued outside. A photo was taken of all of the residents of Willard Hall in attendance of the party on the front steps.
Hope Rainey, a sophomore in strategic communications, and Resident Assistant of Willard has learned leadership and more responsibility skills while in the position.
“I absolutely love it, it has been a great experience getting to learn more leadership skills, get more responsibility, and overall meet a lot of really cool people and get involved on campus. It’s a really cool opportunity to be staying in a building this old, especially this year being my first as an RA. So, I am excited to continue being a n RA next year and continue that legacy. This year being 100 years old in my first year is just really cool though,” Rainey said.
Willard hall was one of the first buildings completed on campus, being the first dormitory, and the seventh building overall. The building was named after Frances Willard, despite her having no association with Pittsburg or K. S. T. C., who was a temperance activist and women’s suffragette as well as being an advocate for other reforms. Frances Willard was known well for her efforts in the late 1800’s before her death in 1898. Willard Hall was originally opened as a women’s dormitory as stated on its’ front placard above the steps, the dorm would have held 112 girls at capacity. Now, it holds just over 70 residents.
During World War II, the women were moved from Willard Hall in the 1940s, when the building was used to house some Navy personnel who trained in Pittsburg. At the end of the War, it was reinstated as a women’s residence hall again until 1970. For 28 years, the building was used for various purposes from faculty and staff offices to Police and Parking Services. In 1998, a $4.2 million renovation included suite style housing for approximately 120 male and female students.
Rumors of Willard Hall being ‘haunted’ have gone around in the past and provided a spooky story to tell among residents.
“I don’t know if it’s haunted, but I think sometimes Willard has a mind of its own. I think Frances may have been onto us a couple of times throughout the year and makes her way around,” said Rainey.
According to a pamphlet estimated to be from the mid 1950s – mid 1960’s, the foreword includes some description of the purpose of Willard Hall.
“The program of educations is concerned with the development of the whole personality of each student, a policy that makes the living center of the student, the out-of-class room life of the student, as important as is the actual academic study of that student. In modern education, a student living center becomes a type of laboratory where the best interests and development of the girl herself are prime factors.”
That same pamphlet as described above also detailed the accommodations for each student and room, plus floor plans of each corresponding floor and rooms. Two parlors furnished with easy chairs, magazines, daily papers, library tables, and lamps provided ample opportunity for social functions that justly form a part of every woman’s life. A large social room of similar decoration with a provided piano, radio, victrola, and fireplace (which still stands today) served a similar purpose. A recreation room in the basement also allowed for more activities such as archery, ping pong, shuffleboard, and board game tables. For each double room, girls were provided with sheets, mattresses, chairs, desks, beds, library tables, chiffoniers, trash bins, a closet, a lavatory with hot and cold water, lighting, and curtains. Hall conveniences included ice water, a sewing machine for each floor, pencil sharpeners, a local telephone, mirrors, buzzer connections for each floor, ironing boards, and washing machines. A first floor inside double room went for $7.00 each, and $7.50 each for double corner rooms, making a grand total of $14.00 for a standard double room on the first floor. ‘Singles’ went for only $9.00. Do not draw your purse strings too tightly though, as allowing a guest to stay overnight in your room costs $0.25 per night.
Included in the 1936 Kanza issue, a letter from a woman named Marjorie to her sister Mary Jo details her “lively” experience living on the 2nd floor of Willard Hall. Marjorie described being woken up by girls singing carols and running down to the parlor to see a Christmas tree and gifts for all the resident girls, as well as a warm breakfast to enjoy just before Christmas Vacation. She also suggests toasting delicious marshmallows over the fireplace, and how intimidatingly large the building was upon first touring it- but within twenty-four hours, the spacious and friendly parlors as well as every floor will be familiar. Marjorie describes in her parting letter: “Never miss a party at Willard Hall. I have every one of my programs in my memory book.”