From the archives: early dorm life| August 24, 2012
Even newly initiated members of the Tribe know the College of William & Mary has a long, rich history. As the Class of 2016 unpacks and settles into campus, here’s a look back on what dorm life at the College has looked like over its nearly 320-year history. Each of these images is courtesy of the Swem Library's Special Collections.
From the College’s founding until the fire of Feb. 8, 1859, the Sir Christopher Wren Building served as the location where most students boarded as well as dined and attended classes - the Wren was the College. This image (above) of the building is a daguerreotype that dates to circa 1856. While the columns seen in this image are no longer present, the balcony is reminiscent of the Wren’s east front today.
The Botetourt statue seen near the center of the daguerreotype is the original statue, which is now housed on the ground floor of Swem Library where it was placed in 1966 after being moved to storage in 1958 to protect it against damage and weathering. The original sculpture of Lord Botetourt is one of the earliest examples of public statuary in North America and the only one erected by the colonists to commemorate a royal governor. A replica of the statue was commissioned as part of William & Mary’s Tercentenary celebration and returned to its place in front of the Wren Building in October 1993. The practice of freshmen tipping their hats before the statue began sometime after 1900, and when the College became co-ed in 1918 it was customary for girls to curtsy to Lord Botetourt. These traditions did not continue after the statue’s return in the 1990s, though new traditions emerged – students often adorn the statue with hats, wreaths and/or balloons for holidays and special occasions.
This print of an interior room of the Wren Building was published in an 1866 edition of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. The caption notes that it depicts John Randolph of Roanoke’s room.
A search of the archives revealed this 1856 drawing of the Wren Building by Mary Southall of Williamsburg. The drawing includes notations about each rooms use. Some of the notations are names believed to be of the students who occupied the space.
The earliest photographic images of dorm room spaces in the archives date to the 1920s and 1930s. Many of these types of pictures make their way to the archives as part of collections included in scrapbooks donated to the College by alumni or their families. The room (circa 1930) is in the Kappa Delta Sorority House. The picture was given to the College by Muriel Johnstone, member of the Class of 1929.
While the sorority house room has the air of a decorator’s touch, this picture of a room in the Kappa Alpha Fraternity House (circa 1925)show significantly less attention paid to decorative detail (note the lamp suspended from the chord draped wall to wall over the bed). This particular room belonged to Herbert Ganter ‘27, J.D. ‘30 who would later serve as archivist to the College from 1948 to 1974.