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Collection spotlight: Smith Hall

Smith Hall in 1942

Smith Hall, 1942

Back in late 2013, we wrote about the history of Smith Hall. This private residence turned male dormitory has been a popular research topic here at Archives. We are often asked by former residents and current students for more information on the historic house. Thanks to the hard work of one volunteer student, we finally have a collection of Smith Hall documents for patrons to research.

Some of you might be asking, “Where is Smith Hall?” Unfortunately, Smith Hall was demolished to make way for new dormitory buildings. Even though it has been gone for 56 years, Smith Hall remains one of the more memorable campus buildings, alongside Old Main and North Hall. It was once owned by a local war veteran, Col. D.C. Smith, who later sold the house to the ISNU University Club.

Fell Hall was the first official dormitory on campus (opened in 1919), but it was only for women. Smith Hall was the first dormitory for male students, and though not a fraternity, residents of Smith Hall hosted and participated in Panhellenic-style events like new resident initiations, house parties, and house sponsorship of Homecoming floats and events.

When World War II broke out, Smith Hall was used as residence for the enlisted sailors in the Navy’s V-12 program. After the war, Smith Hall was once again used as a male dormitory but only for a short period of time. The house was in need of major repairs and its location was the focus for a set of new campus dormitories, Atkins-Colby and Hamilton-Whitten. Smith Hall was demolished in 1959; the now decommissioned Feeney Dining Center sits approximately on the site of where Smith Hall once stood.

We have a number of items related to Smith Hall, including rosters, prints, and scrapbooks. As part of her training to process the collection of the Preview freshman orientation program, Illinois State student Molly Stevenson worked on the Smith Hall collection and made it available for researchers. Molly arranged the materials and wrote the finding aid, which patrons can view online in our database. She is currently working on the archival collection for Preview, which should be available to researchers later this year.

A big thanks to Molly for all of her hard work!  If you would like to research the materials in the Smith Hall collection, send us an email or give us a call at (309) 438-3546 to schedule an appointment.

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