Hampshire Myths And Legends!

I took over the post of Archivist for Hampshire College a little over a year ago after the person who created the Hampshire College Archives, Susan Dayall, retired. Susan served Hampshire for decades and her knowledge of the school is still unsurpassed.

Recently, while looking through some of the files my predecessor left behind, I came upon a Word document with the interesting title “Hampshire Myths and Legends.” I’ve gotten a real kick out of reading these and I thought it would be fun to share them with all of you. I’m a graduate of large state schools and have been getting to know Hampshire. This list of myths and legends has been a great resource. I hope it also helps you to get to know Hampshire just a little bit better! If nothing else, it could really help you do well if you’re on Jeopardy! and there’s a “Hampshire College” category. (Just don’t forget us folks at the library after your big game show win.)

The document follows:

Hampshire Myths and Legends                                   4/2012


Greenwich donuts are round because the planes from Westover used them as targets. No relation to Westover, the donuts are modular housing (hence, the Mods). The sections were built in Northampton and trucked to the Hampshire campus; the width of each section was limited by the width at that time of the Calvin Coolidge Bridge.

Cole Science Center was originally designed to have a 4th floor, but was incomplete because of a construction strike. According to Lynn Miller, there was supposed to be an astronomy observatory on the roof, but no funds were available; that is why there is a 4th floor on the elevator buttons. There was a construction workers’ strike, which delayed the opening of CSC until Spring 1971, but no fourth floor was in the design.

Sculpture near the entrance road. I was told by a student that she had been told by her orientation leader that it was a musical instrument created for a Div III, but the secret of playing it had been lost in the mists of time. This metal sculpture is titled “Uncubed” by Alan Phillips, and has been on permanent loan since 1996.

Merrill/Dakin Houses were built on the design for a prison or an insane asylum. No, Hugh Stubbins designed all the brick and concrete buildings; also many buildings at Amherst and Mt. Holyoke. The idea of using the bathrooms as pass-throughs from one hall to another came about because there needed to be two fire stairwells/exits from each floor, and it was less expensive than building additional stairwells.


How did the college start? The New College plan of 1958 was written by the Committee for New College, composed of faculty from the other four institutions. Harold F. Johnson, an Amherst alumn who had read the New College Plan gave 6 million in 1965 to found the new college. Charles Longsworth purchased farmland in south Amherst for the campus. The land was held in the name of the Trustees of Tinker Hill (a prominent hill in south Amherst). Hampshire College was incorporated in May 1965, and Franklin Patterson was hired as President. After a conference of educators, writers, artists and other original thinkers in 1966, Patterson and Longsworth wrote “The Making of a College”, the blueprint for Hampshire College.

Admissions 1968 Bulletin: “If this was an ordinary college, we’d have sent you an ordinary bulletin”. In fact, this first announcement was in the form of a phonorecord. The original text on the enclosure referred to “Intercourse” among Five College students. The text was changed to “interchange” among Five College students, due to Franklin Patterson’s strong objection.

Hampshire Frog, as a semi-mascot, is due to 1970 Frogbook. Titled, “The Hampshire College Community”, but with a large green frog photo on the cover, these photo directories were ever after known as “Frogbooks”. Ray Coppinger’s “Singing Frog” massacre is a good story (that the buiding of the campus wiped out a unique population of singing frogs), but it is untrue.

Hampshire Tree logo was drawn by Franklin Patterson’s son Eric in 1968, and used on most of the new college’s documents. John Boettiger’s memo on the tree suggests a likeness to the Babylonian tree of life. There is a myth that it is a representation of a marijuana leaf, which replaced it on masthead of the first Climax, the student newspaper, in 1971.

Div III Bell. Donated by alumn Jonathan Frank, in 1982, to celebrate passing of any Divisional exam. There soon arose a definite superstition that if you rang it before  you passed Div III, you would never graduate. The bell was replaced in 2004 after it developed a crack.

Red Barn. Norton Juster’s class, in Spring 1971 designed the first renovation. Originally built ca. 1820. The original renovation, funded by a trustee but carried out by a contractor, was completed 1974. It has been renovated at least twice since then.

Yurt. Originated in 1993 as a group independent study, students designed it, raised money for it and built it. It was completed in 1998. One of the suggestions for its use what that due to its unique shape, meetings held in it would be collaborative, not hierarchical.

Bridge Cafe. The RCC was built 1974, with a bridge to the library that was always kept locked. In 1977 Olivia Georgia did an art installation on the Bridge for her Div III. In 1980 there was proposed a Student Center for upper level RCC. The Bridge Cafe first opened in 1978 as a student project. Marriott took over the operation of the cafe in 1996.

Bunker. This underground facility just off Route 116 in the Notch was originally a Cold War era alternate command center for Westover Air Force Base. It was designed to keep a workforce of 300 men safe in the event of a nuclear war, and its construction was a top secret operation. After being abandoned by the Air Force, it was used as a storage vault for bank records from Boston before being bought by Amherst College to use for storage. The Five College Book Depository was established in 2002 to store little used books and periodicals from the Five College libraries.

Pet Policy. Pets were allowed in all residence halls and mods when the college opened in 1970. Problems with pet control (including cleanup and unleased dogs roaming the campus) led to pets being banned and reinstated as students formed pet cooperatives to license and control pets, which flourished and fell apart repeatedly. President Greg Prince finally outlawed pets in May 1994 after a pet pot-bellied pig destroyed a mod.

Emma Goldman Hall. When the Trustee Committee on the Naming of Buildings announced the names chosen in 1973, students (and some faculty, notably Lester Mazor), objected to the name, Emily Dickinson Hall. Instead they christened it Emma Goldman Hall, and the name was in use in student publications for a number of years.

Other Facts:

Bubble. The Bubble was an inflated structure (installed in 1972) covering three tennis courts at the end of the driveway west of CSC. It provided an indoor tennis facility before the multisport center was built. The Bubble periodically sprang a leak and had to be repaired. It was finally declared too damaged to repair in January 1980 and was removed.

Velvet Elvis, had to be hung in plain sight in a mod, until stolen by another mod. Given to Pres. Greg Prince who didn’t understand and kept it.

Easter Keg Hunt. Of unknown provenance, the keg hunt involved a beer keg (or several) hidden in the woods around the Hampshire campus before Easter morning, free to anyone who found it. Advertised on the internet, groups of students from the surronding colleges would descend on Hampshire that morning to find a keg and drink its contents. The Easter Keg Hunt was actively discouraged by campus police.

Windmill. The windmill was created in 1984 as part of a Div II on Alternative Technologies by students John Reid and Josh Goldman, whose faculty chairperson was Fred Wirth. It was installed on the hill between the front driveway and Enfield. It was declared unsafe and removed in March 2006.



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